Monday, May 24, 2010

The Texas War on Textbooks

In the world of American education, the Texas State Board of Education has been in the spotlight in recent months. Attempts by far-right members of the Board came to a culmination last week in a decision to re-write Texas public school textbooks in a manner which downplays minorities' contributions to American history, glosses over pivotal historical themes such as slavery, and banishes Baptists' greatest contribution to American history - the separation of church and state - in favor of advocating the myth of America founded as a Christian nation.

Following is a collection of articles, editorials and commentary focused on how Christian fundamentalists, in control of the Texas State Board of Education, came to rewrite history for the state of Texas, and the implications of such historical revisionism:

American Historical Association:
The official response to the Texas State Board of Education from the American Historical Association - the response focuses on history prior to 1877 (May 24)

Associated Baptist Press:
Texas board gives final approval to controversial textbook standards (May 24)
Religious leaders decry proposed Texas textbook standards (May 13)
Gaddy urges textbook publishers to ignore new textbook standards (March 22)
Baptists decry Texas board's votes on textbook standards (March 16)

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty:
Texas Textbook Decisions Have National Implications (April 13)

Baptist Press:
Texas School Board Members Dispute Critics' Assertions (March 29)

Baptist Studies Bulletin:
Baptist, Muslims, Atheists and the First Amendment - by Bruce Gourley (May)

Dallas Morning News:
Texas State Board of Education Approves New Textbook Standards (May 22)
At Board of Education, Church-State Fight Grows (May 15)
3 Education Board Members Take Issue With Social Studies Proposal (October 16, 2009)

Houston Chronicle:
McLeroy Offers More Shifts on Social Studies Changes (May 17)

New York Times:
Texas Approves Textbook Changes (May 22)
Textbook School Board Set to Vote Textbook Revisions (May 20)
Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change (March 12)
How Christian Were the Founders? (February 14)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Texas Skews Curriculum With New Changes, California Set to Respond (May 22)

Telegraph (U.K.):
Biblical Values and Confederates Promoted in Texas Textbook Revisions (May 21)

Wall Street Journal:
Texas Board of Education Adopts Controversial Curriculum (May 21)
Texas Syllabus: It's History (May 20)

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Monday, May 03, 2010

An Armageddon in the Gulf ... of Mexico?

While Tim LaHaye and the Council for National Policy try to arrange wars in the Middle East in order to force Christ's return, a present-day Armageddon is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

I have been following, from afar and in horror, the epic saga of the British Petroleum oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico (here is the moment's story from the New York Times). In short, the deepest offshore well ever drilled is now gushing as much as a million gallons of oil daily (by some estimates) into the waters of the Gulf, following an explosion on and subsequent sinking of the drilling platform on April 20. And no one really knows the upper limits of just how much oil is gushing up from the ocean floor, although it could become the greatest ocean oil disaster ever.

All efforts to stanch the oil have failed, and it may be up to three months before the flow is finally stopped. Already, the oil slick is reaching the marshlands of Louisiana, and it will soon coat the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida with oil, with the possibility that the slick will round the tip of Florida and head northward up the eastern seaboard and further into the Atlantic Ocean.

The implications are staggering. Ocean ecosystems could be wiped out, resulting in chain reactions that we cannot imagine at the moment. Entire human industries and livelihoods dependent upon the Gulf and Atlantic oceans could be destroyed for months or even years to come.

The back story is that BP earlier claimed their deep sea exploration was completely safe and that any accidents were "virtually impossible." Seriously. They actually said that.

In addition to BP's arrogance, some are blaming Halliburton (yes, the same Dick Cheney company that stole untold tens if not hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars through government contracts in Iraq they never fulfilled) for some work they did for BP on the seabed below the drilling platform that exploded. And in hindsight, some experts are saying that oil companies are drilling too far below the ocean surface to ensure safety.

It makes me cringe to think what we as humans are doing to the planet God gave us. We're poisoning the air, land and oceans with reckless abandon, for the profit of a few and the pleasures and conveniences of the masses. Rather than using our technology to be stewards of God's creation, we use it for destructive, self-serving purposes.

Perhaps this horrific tragedy will serve as a wakeup call to people of faith and our nation and world at large, concerning the dangers of abusing the earth. Or perhaps the time has already passed for a wakeup call, and the best we can hope for is to begin the long-term task of partially patching up a planet that has already been fatally wounded by human greed and callousness, of which the Gulf oil spill is the latest example.