Locke, Montesquieu and Moses

The Texas State Board of Education voted on a new set of social studies materials on Friday. NPR reports:

That includes some 89 textbooks, workbooks and other classroom materials. The vote matters because, with about 5 million students, the state has a big impact on the national textbook market.

Well it also matters because 5 million students are a lot of students, and they need good textbooks too.

We know how the Texas Board of Ed is. It’s been colonized by Christian Nationalists, who want to teach Christian Nationalist things to captive students.

Consider one high school government textbook. It lists four thinkers who influenced the Founding Fathers.

“Three of those on the list make a lot of sense: John Locke, Montesquieu and Blackstone. Those are all either British philosophers or Enlightenment thinkers,” says Jennifer Graber, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

She says that these three thinkers are all quoted in America’s founding documents. But, for Graber, the fourth person on the list raised a red flag: Moses.

Moses for fuck’s sake. Because of the 10 commandments, no doubt – and how incredibly stupid is that. It’s a jejune little list of the obvious at best and a theocratic list of commands to grovel to god at worst. Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie – yeah the people who wrote the US constitution didn’t need Moses to tell them that; it’s an obvious part of any workable social contract. Worship god, take the day off to worship god, don’t throw god’s name around – those are items that are not in the US constitution, and shouldn’t be.

Moses is, however, mentioned explicitly in Texas learning standards, which is why the publisher included him in its textbook (and this is not the publisher’s only textbook to include him).

The standards are called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and were created in 2010. They state that high school students in U.S. government are expected to “identify the individuals, whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu.”

The majority Republican, 15-member Texas Board of Educationdefended the standards during meetings this week.

“Moses was not a Founding Father. However, I believe he did influence our Founding Fathers,” says Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio.

Piffle. Achilles and Hector, Lear and Hamlet probably influenced Jefferson and Adams and the gang a great deal more than Moses did.

“The standards suggest that slavery was only the third most important contributing factor to the Civil War, which we all know is ridiculous,” says Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning watchdog group. It contracted scholars at various universities to review the books.

The review found that at first, some publishers followed Texas’ lead, downplaying slavery’s role in the Civil War and emphasizing states’ rights. But, after a long public review process and many complaints, they made changes.

“Publishers have improved their books and made clear that slavery was the driving force behind the separation between the North and the South and the Civil War, so we’re pleased about that,” Miller says.

Typical frightened NPR, to pretend it’s “left-leaning” to prefer truth to bullshit. I think the Texas Freedom Network is secular rather than left-leaning, but I suppose in Texas secularism is automatically left-wing. Plus of course that whole pesky idea that slavery was a bad thing and we shouldn’t pretend it was never really an issue.



  1. Blanche Quizno says

    “One of these things is not like the others…one of these things just didn’t exist.” C’mon – everybody sing!!

  2. busterggi says

    But of course – just read the bible to see how Israel was a model democractic republic right from day zero – it says so in King or Judges or some other book.

  3. Blanche Quizno says

    “Publishers have improved their books and made clear that slavery was the driving force behind the separation between the North and the South and the Civil War, so we’re pleased about that,” Miller says.

    During one episode of The Simpsons, Apu, the Indian convenience store owner, is in the process of studying for his American citizenship test. In response to a question from his examiner about the causes of the Civil War, he lists “numerous causes”: the obvious schism between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists; economic factors, both domestic and international… The examiner says, “Just say ‘slavery’.” Apu enthusiastically responds, “Slavery it is, then!” and passes the test. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8VCbvMoCV8

    I guess I don’t really understand what satirical angle the writers were going for – from reading Dr. Gerald Horne’s great new book, “The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America”, it is clear that slavery was, in fact, the deal-breaker and ultimate uncompromising issue upon which made separation from Britain inevitable and inescapable. Our Founding Fathers wanted the glory of establishing the world’s first officially apartheid government, I guess O_O

  4. Thos Cochrane says

    There’s another problem, of course. Moses didn’t write the first five books of the bible, or the Ten Commandments. God did, through Moses.

    I’m not sure how they could be more transparent in their attempts to smuggle God into the classroom.

  5. Kevin Kehres says

    Arguably, the pagan Greeks had WAY more to do with our modern system of government than “Moses” — whoever the hell that person is supposed to be.

    They’re sneaking woo in the side door. A little burning bush here, some godly writing on stone tablets there…BINGO!

  6. RJW says

    @6 Kevin Kehres,

    Yes, fortunately Western civilisation is essentially Greco-Roman-Germanic-Judeo-Christian, not simply Judeo-Christian, otherwise it would have a lot in common with 19th century Saudi Arabia.

  7. says

    Because of the 10 commandments

    The asshole who dropped them, thereby destroying what would have been the most valuable artifact in human history? That guy?

  8. says

    As Christopher Hitchens once pointed out: if Moses were really raised as a pharoah’s son, he’d have inevitably been familiar with Egyptian law, which was much more sophisticated than the stuff that god supposedly gave him. It’s surprising he didn’t ask god “where’s the beef?” because, as a body of law, the 10c are mighty thin gruel.

  9. says

    I thought he threw ‘em on the ground in some sort of righteous tantrumy snitfit.

    Nah, he was old and had been in the bottle; he stumbled and dropped ’em. Then to cover it up he got mighty wroth and had every man slay his brother and all and blamed them. True facts.

  10. Al Dente says

    The slavery issue was a major part of states rights.

    In the decades preceding the civil war the states rights issue hung over the nation like a sword. The doctrine held that certain rights and powers remained as part of the sovereignty of individual states and that the exercise of that sovereignty lay in the will of the states’ citizens. Through elected officials the citizenry bestowed certain powers to the federal government such as conducting diplomacy and declaring war. But the states had powers denied to the federal government.

    In the antebellum years authority granted the federal government by the Constitution was held to be vague and differing opinions about that authority tended to be regionally held. Conflicting interpretations about slavery escalated into regional disputes.

    Congress passed a fugitive slave act in 1793 as a means to protect Southern “property” rights concerning chattel slavery. As the Northern states abolished slavery they instituted personal liberty laws to safeguard free blacks and over time these laws made the 1793 act ineffective.

    With the spread of Northern and Western antislavery sentiments, a new fugitive slave act became a critical part of the Compromise of 1850. It was the one concession to Southern states written into the legislation and a test of the North’s commitment to personal property rights. Under the act, Northern officials were responsible for returning fugitive slaves to their owners. Any person found guilty of assisting a fugitive slave was subject to six months imprisonment and a $1000 fine (at this time a skilled workman like a blacksmith or carpenter made a wage of about $1 per day) plus, if the slave had not been recaptured, reimbursement of the market value of the slave. The act denied fugitives a jury trial or habeas corpus protection. Many Northerners regarded the act as a flagrant violation of fundamental personal rights and Northern state legislatures passed new personal liberty laws which weakened the 1850 fugitive slave act.

    Although politicians had expected the fugitive slave act to relieve regional tensions, they soon saw that it had become a propaganda tool for abolitionists, who deliberately violated the act. In the decade before the civil war fugitives who made it to the North were rarely returned to their masters. The act sharpened the rift between North and South. More than anything, it grew into a symbol of determined resistance for both pro- and anti-slavery factions and became one of the key issues leading to irreconcilable disunion in 1861.

  11. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    He threw the tablets on the ground, ordered his thugs to massacre people and then went back and made two more.

    The really sick part being that he massacres people before they have a chance to find out wot the rules are.

  12. Blanche Quizno says

    @8 Marcus Ranum: The 10 Commandments tablets, though broken, were kept around for a while – that’s what was inside the Ark of the Covenant, you know. The Ark is mentioned in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Psalms, and Jeremiah (it was kind of a “thing”).

    1 Kings 8:9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

    That’s repeated in 1 Chronicles 5:10. A lot of Kings is repeated in Chronicles. Two tablets. Check. Somehow, though, some extra stuff got added sometime between then and the writing of the Christian scriptures:

    Hebrews 9:3-4 …and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant. And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

    ooooOOooo!! Manna and the magic rod! Yay!! But don’t let us speak particularly – no! That’s RIGHT out!

    Those crazy Hailie Selassie zealots claim it’s right there in Ethiopia, just hidden (surprise surprise). It’s mentioned in Revelation as if it’s a real thing:

    11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

    Or maybe they’re finally acknowledging that it was as imaginary as every other goddy thing in their religion.

    But back to the ark mythology, if anyone so much as *touched* it, for example, to steady it over rough ground, s/he/it would be struck dead on the spot!

    2 Samuel 6:6-7 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

    Better yet, don’t even look at it:

    1 Samuel 6:19 “And he smote of the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.” (Some translations say it was 70 men instead of 50,070; or 75 men; or 50 men and perhaps 50 oxen – who cares??)

    Because it was magic. Obviously. Actually, the whole “ark of the covenant” story is hilarious, because of such great emphasis on keeping it hidden from view! They’re supposed to keep it in this “sacred room” that nobody is allowed to go into except for the head honchos; it’s supposed to be kept behind a curtain; when they had to move it out of the building, they had to cover it with 3 layers of cloth; and even with all that, everybody had to keep 1,000 yards away – OR ELSE! Sounds like a racket to me…

  13. Blanche Quizno says

    @13 Al Dente: “Under the act, Northern officials were responsible for returning fugitive slaves to their owners.” I understand that law was widely ignored. Dr. Gerald Horne’s research has revealed that there was an essential tension in slavery, spoken in that line by Leonardo diCaprio’s character in “Django Unchained”: “Why don’t they kill us?” The fact is that they were! It is a pernicious, toxic mythology that the Africans and their descendants were complicit in their own captivity, subjugation, and exploitation – makes it easier to think of them as less than human and/or as somehow deserving of that station. But the reason the Crown was moving so quickly toward abolition was that its mega-profitable sugar plantations, particularly in Jamaica, were so riddled with violence that the white people were fleeing (rather than being slaughtered), and Britain realized that the only hope of holding these colonies was emancipation. Escaped slaves had set up encampments in Jamaica’s impenetrable hills, and these escapees, known as “Maroons”, would periodically stage raids onto the plantations, in addition to sneaking down and stirring up unrest. The slaves of Haiti won their freedom in the only successful slave revolt the world has ever seen; on the eve of the war, there were 40K white people, 30K free blacks/mulattos; and 500K slaves. Slavery was so profitable that the slave colonies demanded ever more slaves, yet the more unbalanced the demographics became, the more likely that the more numerous slaves would rise up and overthrow their relatively few and often hugely outnumbered white masters. Even without an active armed rebellion, slaves were poisoning their masters, their masters’ families, their masters’ livestock and causing all sorts of trouble – destroying tools, dropping the master’s babies, killing livestock, sabotaging everything they could manage. The slaves were typically a highly unruly sort; the 2nd Amendment actually refers to the slave states’ slave militias, which were patrols every man had to devote 2 years to upon turning 21 or something. They patrolled, capturing runaway slaves and putting down rebellions. It was kept at the state (rather than federal) level, because the slave states feared the federal government conscripting their militias for a war somewhere else and leaving them at the mercy of their furious slaves. In addition, Spain (from Florida and Cuba) was eyeing the British colonies on the North American mainland (and arming escaped slaves and sending them back to wreak vengeance upon their erstwhile masters); France (from Canada and the West) was likewise threatening. The American colonists, for their part, were taking full advantage of the opportunities for profiting off trading with Britain’s enemies! In addition, the colonists made *terrible* fighters when Britain needed to raise an army to fight to protect its colonial interests in the New World, prone to reluctance, insubordination, and just plain running off, especially at harvest season. Whereas Africans, promised guns, equal treatment, and then freedom for serving in the British forces, made fearsome – and reliable – soldiers. Plus, they appeared to be better able to resist the tropical diseases of the Caribbean basin. One of the things the American colonists feared most was that the Crown would send armed Africans in uniform to put down the growing colonial rebellion…hence the repeated complaint that Britain was treating its colonies “like slaves”!

  14. says

    The really sick part being that he massacres people before they have a chance to find out wot the rules are

    The really really sick part being that one of those rules is “thou shall do no murder.” Ironic, isn’t it?

  15. says

    Hang about, for the past half a century I was under the impression that the consensus among ancient historians[1] was that Moses did not exist. Does the Texas Board of Education know something the majority of historians don’t?

    [1] By which I mean people who study ancient history rather than ancient people that study history.


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