One of the amendments proposed by the Texas School Board of Education to the social studies curriculum used in the public schools in that state requires that teachers spend time lecturing about the conservative resurgence of the 1980’s and 1990’s in America. Well, most teachers don’t cover that because a) it’s not history yet and b) they run out of time to do those years in depth. You’re lucky if your teacher gets to touch on Ronald Reagan much at all. Hell, you’re lucky if your teacher goes much in detail into Vietnam. Most of my students know nothing about that, and when I brought up Three Mile Island one semester, no one had even heard of it. So, you’re not even talking 1980’s and 1990’s here. It’s hard to fit it all in one semester.
What I think they should require is that teachers spend time lecturing about the conservative resurgence of the 1960’s and 1970’s. In particular, a couple of Texans would be important to talk about (and I do — but my textbook does not). They are Paige Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler. These two gentlemen got together and hatched a plan to take over the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because of their concerns that the denomination was growing too moderate (not liberal, just moderate). They brought in like-minded peers and slowly implemented their scheme to take over the top positions and then dictate principles to those below. They changed the official platform of the SBC to fit their conservative agenda. Not only did their work cause a significant shift in the SBC, but the involvement of conservative Baptist political activists meant that they affected politics as well. The rise of the political power of the religious right in the 1970’s meant significant changes in our country (including leading to Reagan’s election in 1980). Southern Baptists — as one of the largest religious segments of our society — have been essential to this change, and Texans were at the forefront of that development. The conservatives on the Texas School Board pushing the connection between Christianity and government in our country are heirs of Patterson and Pressler’s work.
Here’s the twist: Patterson (after serving as President of the SBC) eventually became President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (thereby controlling the training of future Southern Baptist ministers) — he had previously served as President of the Southeastern Seminary as well. During his time at Southwestern, he dismissed one of the faculty members — Dr. Sheri Klouda — because she is female and Patterson’s reading of the Bible is that women should not be in positions of authority over men (apparently not even male students). Klouda sued the school for discrimination based on her sex. Ironically, the judge hearing the case dismissed it, because the Constitutional ban on government intrusion into religious matters meant that the courts had no jurisdiction over matters at the seminary. That’s right, Patterson’s ass was saved by the separation of church and state. I doubt the School Board is pressing for that story’s inclusion in their amendments.