AUSTIN – In honor of the 4th of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, here is how some of the new textbooks in Texas teach this fundamental document in our nation’s founding:
Can we officially change the wording of the Declaration of Independence to fit modern language? One textbook seems to be doing this already.
Perfection Learning: Basic Principles of American Government, which is up for adoption for high school courses in Texas, reads:
The word Jefferson used, the word that generations of Americans once read and memorized from the original document, is “unalienable.” While both words are accepted in English today, inalienable is far more common, and thus it is a common mistake to assume Jefferson used it. Yet, we do not need to perpetuate this mistake with faulty educational material. Better yet, how about the students just learn the Declaration straight from the primary source?
If we can’t alter the wording of the Declaration to fit our beliefs, can we alter the meaning? One textbook tries to.
Perfection Learning: Basic Principles of American Government (again) tries to remake the Declaration of Independence, this time through faulty interpretation. The textbook reads:
The textbook is referring to the line in the Declaration that reads, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Clearly, the two lines have different meanings. Jefferson never wrote about government “ruling” the people and he never referred to “rights” of the government. Rights belong to the people. Government has power, which is derived from the consent of the governed.
One textbook argues that the colonists actually wanted the king to COME PROTECT them.
A Discovery Education textbook proposed for adoption for 8th grade in Texas quotes the Declaration of Independence and then immediately teaches that the quote means something it does not.
The text falsely teaches that the colonists were aggrieved because the King somehow failed to protect their individual rights. In fact, their grievances were all related to his direct usurpation of their rights. The colonists were not arguing that the king should have protected them from some third party; they were arguing that he should have left them to live as they wanted and as they believed they had a right to live. They wanted less interference and control by the King, not more. This inaccurate explanation by the textbook throws the reasoning behind the Revolution upside down. Students who read this text will not understand the colonists’ feelings during the Revolution.
Why can’t students just read the Declaration of Independence in the original? Surely an 8th grader can do better than this!
Over the next several months, Verity Educate will be highlighting some of the major errors and inaccuracies we find in the textbooks up for adoption in Texas. Over 5 million students in Texas will use the textbooks the Texas State Board of Education approves and millions more around the country will be impacted, as publishers offer these same books across the country. Follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook to receive more updates.
Authored by Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D., executive director of Verity Educate
Images courtesy Verity Educate.