To the Board of Education

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

     In my ten years of education, I can honestly say that the most important thing I have learned is that knowledge is power.  Knowledge gives people the resources to do brilliant things and it gives mankind the resources to move forward, especially when it comes to history. Though history has been biased, skewed and interpreted in countless ways, I find it to be a basic principle that we are all obligated to learn anyway, because if we don’t, we are then stripped of the aforementioned resources. According to the Huffington Post, the State of Texas Board of Education has proposed changes to textbooks and curriculums that would completely rewrite the course of history and indoctrinate our nation’s youth in a way that would significantly alter how we view our nation and its founders.

     When I first read a sampling of the proposed modifications to be made in textbooks, I didn’t believe it. Firstly, the elimination of Thomas Jefferson as the great philosophical influence he was during the founding of the United States in favor of more emphasis on Christian values directing the nation’s forefathers is ludicrous.   Certainly educated men and women such as yourselves would understand that Thomas Jefferson, deist though he was, was also a key character in our nation’s story, as were other Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, who in fact deeply influenced Jefferson in ideas that he wrote directly into the Declaration of Independence. This included the right of the people to overturn the government under dire circumstances, which was fundamental in the actual formation of the United States of America as the colonies faced oppression from the British government. Another principle added by Jefferson was the separation of church and state, which was a vital principle and cornerstone of our nation’s origins. Erasing the magnitude of influence that such thinkers as Thomas Jefferson and John Locke had over our nation’s history as the board has proposed to do and instead teach youth that the United States was founded directly on Christian values would be a crime.

     The Constitution written by our founding fathers begins with the Preamble as follows:
     “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

     The word “liberty” is defined as having freedom from despotic or unnecessary government control. This most certainly includes the withholding of knowledge of core American values and historical events from our posterity simply due to the fact that some of our predecessors advocated such ideas as the separation of church and state. Though your opinions may be that the Judeo-Christian values of our founding fathers must be highlighted, let me be very blunt in saying that if you allow your own beliefs to cloud your judgment and trifle with the knowledge of the nation’s future senators, representatives, and presidents then you will have committed an obstruction of justice beyond the likes of which I have ever seen.

     Another revision that would directly impact today’s culture would be the abridgement of contributions made by Hispanics to American history. One example would be the elimination of the cofounding of the United Farm Workers of America by Dolores Huerta due to her socialist views. Ironically, Helen Keller shared similar socialist views, and yet her place will remain the same in Texas textbooks.

     This proposed revision, which in fact caused Board of Education member Mary Helen Berlanga to walk out of the board meeting, was accompanied by suggestions of removing hip-hop music from being listed as an influence on American culture, as well as the entire Civil Rights movement being altered and shortened to merely gloss over the facts. According to the Huffington Post, there has been speculation as to the possibility of conservatives on the board attempting to alter the textbooks to make them less “leftist”, which explains the negation of key Enlightenment thinkers and historical figures that were known to have socialist viewpoints. This in itself is not only narrow-minded and chauvinistic, but is also incredibly dangerous where the future of the nation is concerned.

     Revisionism is always a delicate and perilous path to take, but the current proposals for new textbooks and curriculums are alarming. If our youth grow up without understanding the basic concepts that our society, culture, and political structure are based upon, then the United States is bound for a future full of mistakes that our predecessors have already made. If you are still not convinced, remember this: it was conservative political theorist Edmund Burke that once said, “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” However, it was Adolf Hitler who said, “Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state.”  Which path is the United States of America headed for?