David Barton is Glenn Beck's favorite Tea Party historical revisionist! He is a personification of the false narratives which drive the Republican party. Though he has no real academic credentials, his influence has shaped school textbooks in Texas and across the country. He has influenced fundamentalist politicians from Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin to Dr. Ben Carson and is currently running Ted Cruz's "Keep The Faith" super PAC, richly funded by Texas fracking billionaires.
Why is he important? According to Julie Ingersoll writing in Salon:
"Despite being roundly rejected by scholars, Barton claims to be a "recognized authority in American history and the role of religion in public life."... He has been appointed by the State Boards of Education in states such as California and Texas to help write the American history and government standards for students in those states."
"Barton's goal is to pack textbooks with early American documents that blend government and religion, and paint them as building blocks of our Constitution. In so doing, he aims to blur the fact that the Constitution itself cements a wall of separation between church and state. But his agenda does not stop there. He and the other conservative experts also want to scrub U.S. history of its inconvenient blemishes--if they get their way, textbooks will paint slavery as a relic of British colonialism that America struggled to cast off from day one and refer to our economic system as "ethical capitalism." They also aim to redeem Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy..."
"What's more, the group aims to give history a pro-Republican slant--the most obvious example being their push to swap the term "democratic" for "republican" when describing our system of government. Barton, who was hired by the GOP to do outreach to black churches in the run-up to the 2004 election, has argued elsewhere that African Americans owe their civil rights almost entirely to Republicans and that, given the "atrocious" treatment blacks have gotten at the hands of Democrats, "it might be much more appropriate that ... demands for reparations were made to the Democrat Party rather than to the federal government.""
"Barton and Peter Marshall initially tried to purge the standards of key figures of the civil rights era, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall, though they were forced to back down amid a deafening public uproar. They have since resorted to a more subtle tack; while they concede that people like Martin Luther King Jr. deserve a place in history, they argue that they shouldn't be given credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, "Only majorities can expand political rights in America's constitutional society."
It was in Texas where a geography textbook referred to slaves as "workers" until just this month when a student informed his mother of the Orwellian word choice and she complained forcing publisher McGraw-Hill Education to make immediate revisions at least to the digital version of the text. The physical book itself is still in circulation where it lies like a land mine making putty of young, malleable minds.
The goal of such a propaganda campaign is to teach conservative Republican values like unquestioned obedience to authority, the ethical superiority of capitalism, and the sanctity of American exceptionalism, which is a given if one erases our shameful history of slavery, the genocide of American Indians, and Jim Crow.
And if one thinks this characterization of conservative values goes too far, well, conservatives themselves beg to differ! Three conservative school board members were ousted in a Colorado recall election this week. According to Samantha Lachman writing in the Huffington Post, one of the member's "proposed that the board consider whether teachers should present materials that emphasize "positive aspects of the United States" and respect for authority, free enterprise and individual rights, rather than encouraging or condoning "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.""
For such reasons conservative Republicans always want to abolish the Department of Education at the federal level and replace it with local autonomy of the school curricula. When conservative ideologues take majority control of local school boards, propagandists like Barton have free reign to impose their signature whitewashing of history on the next generation. One must be vigilant!