We continue with our discussion of David Barton’s review of the Texas Social Studies standards. This will be our last post on Barton. You can get up to speed by scrolling down on this blog and viewing the previous posts.
After Barton’s long section on the Declaration of Independence and the importance of American exceptionalism, he turns to the “Founding Fathers.” Barton’s primary argument here is that students need to learn about all the so-called “Founding Fathers” and not just the “half-a-dozen individuals” so often discussed when we teach about these great statesmen. He wants to expand the pool to include James Wilson, Roger Sherman, Charles Pinckney, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Rush, John Witherspoon, Gouvernor Morris, Thomas McKean, Charles Carroll, Henry Knox, and others.
Fair enough. I think it is important that students learn about some of these lesser known Founders; although it does seem that the Founders Barton wants to add to the mix seem to better suit his political agenda. Daniel Dreisbach, Mark Hall, and Jeffry Morrison are doing some good work on bringing some of these Founders to light. What concerns me about Barton’s report is that it is so dominated by politics, government and the “Founders.” Perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt. He is reacting to the current standards, which he feels do not give enough attention to the Founders. In this case, he may be right. I will have to go back and check. Nevertheless, as I wrote about in my previous posts in this series, it seems that Barton would be entirely happy to let the lives and careers of the Founding Fathers and the documents that they created be all that school children in Texas learn about American history.
The rest of the document focuses largely on non-history social studies topics–economics, government, the free-market system, etc… Unlike Barton, I do not claim to be an expert on these subjects, so I will not comment on them.
Finally, near the end of the report, Barton has a section on “Heroes of History.” Here he gives his opinions about what historical figures should be removed from the standards. I will list some of them here. Peter Marshall makes many of the same recommendations in his report so I will evaluate them more fully in my response to it.
In the grade 5 curriculum he wants to remove Anne Hutchinson.
In the grade 5 curriculum he wants to remove Colin Powell because Powell is a “weak choice for a group representing those ‘who have made contributions to society in areas of civil rights, women’s rights, military actions, and politics.’ ” In a paragraph that does not read well, he seems to be promoting the inclusion of Harry Truman as a better choice for this category. Why not keep both of them?
Also in grade 5 he wants to remove Cesar Chavez because of Chavez’s connection to Saul Alinsky. Barton does not believe that Chavez is someone “who modeled active participation in the democratic process.”
Finally, in grade 5 he wants to remove Carl Sagan from the “notable scientists” section of the standards and replace him with the likes of Wernher von Braun, Matthew Maury, Joseph Henry, Maria Mitchell or David Rittenhouse.
Stay tuned…. Peter Marshall is next.