christianity and american history
Christianity and American History
The role of religion in America’s history is one that cannot be overlooked. However, this role has been the subject of controversy after the Texas Board of Education voted to adopt the present social studies curriculum in 2010. The nature of the controversy in Russell Shorto’s article titled How Christian Were the Founders? Relates to religious bias in the representation of America’s history in the school curriculum. Texas has been at the center of numerous controversies concerning curriculum, academic standards, and textbook content. The Texas Board of Education (hereafter referred to as “The Board”) has been under scrutiny for introducing social study textbooks that give a cursory explanation of important historical events such as slavery while calling into question the legal doctrine of the separation of the state and the church.
According to Shorto, the review of the social studies curriculum by the state’s board of education in 2010 drew attention for the engagement over the names and figures that should be included in the register of history (Shorto 1). The proposed changes by religious conservatives on The Board, which included an attempt to refer to the repugnant slave trade history in a euphemistic manner as the “Atlantic triangular trade,” as well as the proposal to replace Thomas Jefferson with John Calvin in the Enlightenment curriculum, drew enormous uproar. Even though some changes were effected, the standards approved by the board were severely criticized as skewed and distorted history. This has been a concern, particularly given that the state’s social studies curriculum standards influence textbook publishers to print deceptive view of America’s history.
The politically conservative members of The Board hold that America was founded by devoted Christians and in accordance with biblical principles, which forms the basis of the relationship between the controversy in question and early American history. This belief informs the theological and judicial foundation to the positions of the said board members on social issues (Anderson 154). Therefore, when the board members refer to America as a “Christian nations,” it is not a reference to the proportion of Christian population in the country, but the country’s roots and the intentions of the founding fathers. It is not difficult to see why the curriculum review has been roundly criticized as providing a distorted view of history. America’s founders believed in the principle of social contract, even though their version of this contract was largely grounded on contemporary British political thought.
The modern British thought on the social contract, particularly that of John Locke, was in many ways a refutation of the biblical view held by The Board, thereby providing students with an almost opposite version of the historical truth. It is uncontested that when the framers embarked on writing the American Constitution, they relied on the wisdom of economists, philosophers, and historians and, therefore, many contend that the decision to include religion, and Christianity specifically, as part of America’s historical narrative is grossly misleading (Shorto 1). How to teach America’s history has been a subject of controversy for decades. The controversy brings to the fore important questions regarding the role played by religion and Christian conservatives in education. The most important issue concerning this controversy relates to the question regarding how children should learn about exploitation and oppression together with the great accomplishment of their country.
Anderson, Braden P. Chosen Nation: Scripture, Theopolitics, and the Project of National Identity. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2012. Print.
Shorto, Russell. “How Christian Were the Founders?” nytimes.com. The New York Times, 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html?scp=1&sq=how%20christian%20were%20the%20founders&st=cse&_r=0>.
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