A Texas-based group affiliated with James Dobson’s far-right Focus on the Family is charging that an alleged “war on Christmas” has now moved to the debate over public school social studies curriculum standards in Texas. But the “evidence” the group provides is so absurd that they must think Texans are just plain stupid and gullible.
In an e-mail to activists, the group cynically charges that the first draft of the proposed new curriculum standards removes Christmas from a list of holidays students might learn about and replaces it with Diwali, a major festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism:
“At stake is how Texas children are taught about the religious heritage of our country, the basic principles of civics, and the entire study of important and worthy individuals who have contributed in different ways to American society. For instance, the new proposed version removes Christmas from the current curriculum and replaces it with Diwali, in a section on ‘religious holidays and observances to be studied by students.’”
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A spokesperson for the group shrieks in a blog post:
“It’s outrageous that the war on Christmas continues in our state and in our nation. This effort to mislead students about current society is shameful and must be stopped.”
Shame on them.
We know the “war on Christmas” lie has been a fund-raising bonanza for the religious right. But is it too much to ask that folks who claim to be so pious actually obey God’s commandment not to bear false witness? Some facts:
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- The course that includes this standard isn’t about American culture, civics and society. It’s a world geography and cultures class for Grade 6.
- The standard focuses on “the significance of religious holidays and observances” around the world, not just in the United States. The original standard suggested two Christian holidays as well as Jewish and Islamic religious observances. The new standard keeps Easter as one Christian holiday but replaces Christmas with Diwali because the writing team wanted one example from each of the world’s major religions.
It’s cynical and insulting to suggest that the writing teams removed Christmas from the standards because of any bias against Christianity or to be somehow “politically correct.” (In fact, it’s likely that the vast majority of writing team members — if not all of them — are Christians.) The course is about world geography and cultures, and the team was making the standard stronger and more representative of world cultures.
But don’t bother talking sense to far-right groups trying to raise money by whipping their activists into a steaming froth. They’re too busy promoting a phony “war on Christmas.” The real war, however, is the one the religious right has launched on common sense in our children’s classrooms.