Rick Perry’s Wrong About Lincoln – Josh Zeitz – POLITICO Magazine

The historian Josh Zeitz takes Rick Perry to task over his claim that Lincoln loved the tenth amendment that limits the powers of the federal government. He even manages to get in a jab at the Texas Board of Education: “Maybe Rick Perry spent too much time reading from those widely disputed history and government standards that the Texas Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, foisted on textbook publishers. Whatever the cause, he’s confusing Abraham Lincoln—erstwhile Whig and promoter of a strong central government—for a strict Tenth Amendment devotee. That, he certainly was not.”

Rick Perry’s Wrong About Lincoln – Josh Zeitz – POLITICO Magazine.

Rick Perry 2015

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Saving Alan Turing from His Friends by Christian Caryl | The New York Review of Books

Should we expect accuracy from movies based on real historical events? I am conflicted on this question. On the one hand, I love great historical fiction (on screen and off) and I expect a great story even if the real events were not as spicy. On the other hand I know that it is through movies that most Americans get their history. But where I definitely draw the line is when dramatic license turns into irresponsible distortion. In this category I put movies like JFK and docudramas like The Sons of Liberty. On The Imitation Game I’m torn.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing

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What Counts as Historical Evidence? The Fracas over John Stauffer’s Black Confederates | Historista

John Stauffer, a Professor of English and African-American Studies at Harvard, received a flurry of criticism after he claimed that “between 3,000 and 6,000 [blacks] served as Confederate soldiers.” Apparently he used literary sources to make the claim without checking out the historical evidence. Opps! Literary sources can be useful to a historian, but the claims made in must either verified by other types of evidence or used as windows into the perceptions of those who wrote the literature. For more on this story:

What Counts as Historical Evidence? The Fracas over John Stauffer’s Black Confederates | Historista.

andrew and silas chandler civil war

Update on the Japanese ‘Comfort Women’

More attempts by the Japanese government to deny the use of comfort women by the Japanese army during WWII. Nogawa Motokazu gives an update on the situation in Japan and concludes: “These moves of the government and the ruling party not only prevent any improvement of Japan-Korea relations but also inflict a second victimisation on the victims of Japanese military’s wartime sexual slavery, who are still living in many parts of the world. We should never forget this.” Read his entire article at:

History News Network | New Attack on the ‘Comfort Women’.

Japanese comfort women

Credit: Robert G. Fresson from the New York Times article: “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth” (November 14, 2014)

The Texas State Board of Education Approves Misleading Textbooks

In 2010 the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) approved controversial curriculum standards for social studies at all grade levels in the public education system. (The New York Times) These standards put textbook publishers in the difficult position of choosing between established scholarship, which would risk the rejection of their products by the SBOE, or conforming to the ideologically-driven curriculum standards in order to sell their materials.

texas-textbooks

It seems that many of them chose to compromise their standards and incorporate the misguided curriculum standards into their textbooks and supporting materials. The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) hired ten scholars in relevant fields to review the forty three proposed textbooks in history, geography, and government. [1] The full reports and a handy summary of the results from the TFN study can be found on their website (TFN). They found that many of the textbooks were misleading, inaccurate, and ideological. As one of the reviewers, Emile Lester, declared it is “[a] triumph of ideology over ideas.” However, they note that the problems in the textbooks “arise from the flawed and biased curriculum standards.” [2]

On November 21 the SBOE approved almost all of the social studies textbooks. But it is not all bad news. According to TFN, the biased depictions of Muslims, Affirmative Action, the Civil War, and climate science were corrected.

The bad news is that the misleading presentation of the role that Moses, and Christianity in general, played in the foundations of the US government remains in the textbooks. In his examination of seven textbooks, Emile Lester found that five “too often focused on controversial and vague claims backed by little or no discussion of evidence concerning the religious influences on the Founders.” [3] Here are some examples from the five problematic textbooks:

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The Declaration of Independence: Founded on Judeo-Christian Principles? Book Review (Part II): Thomas Jefferson: Roots of Religious Freedom by John Harding Peach

The Declaration of Independence has become a sacred document for the Religious Right because they believe that it supports their claim that the United States is a Christian nation. John Harding Peach is no exception. In Thomas Jefferson: Roots of Religious Freedom, Peach claims that the Declaration is an expression of Judeo-Christian principles. The only evidence Peach provides for this assertion is an excerpt from an online essay written by Bo Perrin. Who is Bo Perrin? He is a minister and conservative blogger. Who needs an expert when you can find a random blogger to support your desired conclusion! The fact that Peach relies on a person with no expertise on the subject is enough to make his claim dubious, but just for fun let’s see what Bo has to say.

Bo makes his argument in a commentary for the American Heritage Project, a blog site run by Bo and created for the purpose of “Defending the Biblical Foundation of the Declaration,” to celebrate the Declaration on the Fourth of July 2011. It is a brief hagiographic piece touting the Judeo-Christian foundations of the revered document. There are many historical inaccuracies in his narrative, which is clearly ideologically driven. While there are many factual errors in the posting, I’ll focus solely on the claims related to the religious implications of the Declaration.

The first piece of evidence that Bo finds in the Declaration to support his claim comes from the statement: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Declaration of Independence

Claim: Bo insists that the “Creator” mentioned in the Declaration “is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” and that “[t]he only possible way to make the term Creator mean anything other than the God of the Bible is to rip the Declaration from its historical moorings.”

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