Governor Greg Abbott appointed Donna Bahorich, a parent who home-schooled her children before sending them to private school, to chair the State Board of Education.
The Dallas Morning News vehemently denounced the selection:
It helps mightily to have walked in the shoes of a public school educator or parent if you’re going to shape public education standards. Donna Bahorich has done neither, and that’s why she is the wrong choice to lead the State Board of Education.
The appointment is a needlessly provocative move by Gov. Greg Abbott, a nod to the Republican Party’s most conservative wing at a time when the long-contentious education board has found relative calm.
Bahorich, a political operative with deep ties to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, truly is a dreadful pick, but not ipso facto because of her school selection. People without children, and people whose children may be better served by an educational style or philosophy not available in public schools, can still be good stewards of public education policy.
So, let us not attack Donna Bahorich for the education her children did or did not receive.
Let us instead take issue with her inability to distinguish myth from history. And let us despair.
Many have mocked the decision to include Moses in a list of influences on the authors of our country’s founding documents :
(1) History. The student understands how constitutional government, as developed in America and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution, has been influenced by ideas, people, and historical documents. The student is expected to:
(C) 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;
and to include the Ten Comandments among documents that had an impact on contemporary political systems:
(B) identify the impact of political and legal ideas contained in the following documents: Hammurabi’s Code, the Jewish Ten Commandments, Justinian’s Code of Laws, Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen;
In preparation for the SBOE meeting [at which the inclusion of Moses in the U.S. Government and World History standards was debated], I searched for an understanding of the depth of the influence of divine natural law (principles believed to be inspired by God*) and found that biblical understanding and inspiration was pervasive in the early years of the founding of our country. It absolutely took the stage alongside secular natural law (principles derived through physical, biological and behavioral laws of nature as perceived by human reason-think the Enlightenment*) and historical natural law (principles that evolved over time through custom, tradition or experience*).
Her second message closes with the promise to:
…finish up my thoughts on the infamous Moses debate, including some surprising connections of Moses with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson…
The surprising connection she uncovered?
I discovered that Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams were tasked with designing the nation’s first Seal of the United States, the emblem symbolizing our country to the world. Both Jefferson and Franklin submitted seals that depicted scenes from the life of Moses. Franklin submitted Moses and the Red Sea. Jefferson submitted Moses and the Exodus. Neither seal was adopted [emphasis added], but does the fact that these two founders proposed these submissions for consideration surprise you? It did me, but it so perfectly illustrates the mindset of the times.
She continues drawing a straight line back to Moses and the tablets he brought down from the mountain, misconstruing a Supreme Court opinion along the way, but ignores the most important lesson any student of history can learn.
When in doubt, consult primary sources.
Students can go on field trips to see the Magna Carta, or Code of Hammurabi.
William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu were actual tax-paying, book-writing people whose identifies can be confirmed through numerous official documents and eyewitness statements from people whose identities can also be verified.
Moses, in contrast, is a mythological character described as having the magic power to part an ocean and talk to a burning bush. Who, according to the sculptor Michelangelo, had horns.
A horned magician who disappeared in the hills, then came back with stone ledgers handed down literally by a divine, non-human being.
Slabs of inscribed rock we cannot find behind glass in a museum, or in a vault at the Vatican.
Tablets, stashed in a golden ark, which may have been turned to dust when greedy Nazi treasure-hunters opened it.
Yes, Texas, Governor Greg Abbott appointed a person to chair the State Board of Education who not only accepts the bible as literal truth, which is her right, but who also believes she can force public schools to teach a religious text as though it were literal truth.
Which is not her right.
And that, rather than the fact that her sons did not attend public school, is why she should not chair the State Board of Education.