The Texas Board of Education has decided to keep the biblical character of Moses in the part of the social studies curriculum that discusses historical figures important to the founding of the United States.
We reported in September on the board’s preliminary vote, which recommended keeping Moses and removing Hillary Clinton from the overall curriculum. Ultimately, the board decided to keep Clinton and Moses, despite a working group recommending removal of the latter.
High school students will continue to learn in government class that Moses, along with William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu, were among those who influenced the U.S. founding documents. The Republican-led board voted along party lines to keep Moses in the curriculum, with board Chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, abstaining although she has indicated her support of retaining Moses in the past.
“In the United States, the most common book in any household in this time period was in fact the Bible, and people who didn’t necessarily believe in religion as such … still had a great knowledge of the Bible. In referencing Moses in the time period, they would have known who Moses was and that Moses was the law-giver,” said board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth.
Other Republican members said that keeping Moses in the curriculum is legal, citing a Supreme Court ruling in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments on the Texas Capitol grounds.
That makes absolutely no sense. The Bible was popular when the United States was founded because we hardly had the kind of religious diversity then that we do now and because the Christianity they practiced at the time was far removed from the sort of right-wing political evangelicalism that makes up this Texas board. Just because a religion is popular doesn’t mean history should be rewritten to accommodate it.
It also doesn’t make sense to call Moses the “law-giver” in a public school curriculum. He is the law-giver for certain religious groups, and even then only in a historical sense, but secular people who have studied history understand that his “laws” were simply rehashed versions of moral codes from his local neighbors.
Some of the people on the Board, the Democrats, saw this for what it was. Unfortunately, that was not enough.
Democrats on the board said Wednesday that keeping Moses, a prophet in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, wasn’t factual and that members should follow the board-appointed working group’s recommendation to strike him.
“Maybe he was a law-giver, but that doesn’t mean he influenced our Founding Fathers,” said board member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville. “That doesn’t mean we can make a giant leap that someone from an entirely different continent centuries ago … was somehow responsible for drafting … these founding documents.”
It’s sad that Cortez wasn’t in the majority since he couldn’t be more right. Saying Moses influenced the founding documents ignores the secular history of our nation as well as the non-literalist beliefs of many of our early founders. It’s a major stretch, at best. Depending on how he’s taught in classes, it could become illegal too.
Texas still has a chance to stop this plan from taking effect, but considering the party-line vote, I’m not counting on that.
(Image via Shutterstock)