National education official pushes for Christianity-centered history curriculum | New

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Secretary of Education suggests Oklahoma implement a new Christianity-centered history curriculum in public schools that highlights the role God played in founding the ‘America.

Ryan Walters, who is running as a Republican candidate for state superintendent, said “our history is our history” and that the founders believed “our rights came from God”. He said public school students must learn that they have been endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.

“It doesn’t matter if someone else doesn’t believe it’s from God,” Walters said. “That’s what (the founders) believed, so that was their belief and their intent.”

He said he was promoting “history without indoctrination”.

But experts say Walters’ push to install a God-based history curriculum or training is part of a national movement sweeping the country.

Clark Frailey, executive director of Pastors for Oklahoma Kids, said the push is akin to Christian nationalism, or what seminary schools sometimes call “Christian dominionism.” It is based on the philosophy that Christianity is central to the founding of America and all institutions must align with this view. If people do not convert, then a government religion must be imposed on them, according to the philosophy.

Frailey said that while there were clearly Christian and Judeo-Christian values ​​in the country’s early days, America was not founded as a Christian nation. Pastors in his group often talk about the idea of ​​religious freedom and the fact that there should be room for everyone.

“It’s a very specific view of Christianity that’s not something most denominations share or most Christians really share,” Frailey said. “It seems like a very small minority that has this vision of taking over, but it’s being sold as if Christianity is all over the place, it’s only one thing. That’s not really true, or we wouldn’t have 35,000 denominations there.

Frailey said Dominionism theology seems to be embedded in the program Walters wants to implement. He said the curriculum at Michigan-based Hillsdale College, cited by Walters, appears to be trying to change the way teachers teach history, even though Oklahoma already has pretty clear social studies standards. that require instruction in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and civics.

“It seems like it’s national conversations in Oklahoma that are just plain weird,” Frailey said. “They don’t make sense here.”

He said there were concerns the plan was trying to “water down the story” and make it look like nothing bad happened, like the Trail of Tears or slavery.

“It’s really scary because there were some pretty big atrocities that we don’t need to cover,” Frailey said.

Walters says he wants to make sure Oklahoma teaches an American history curriculum in schools that is “empty of leftist indoctrination” and doesn’t teach “our kids to hate our country.”

Walters said one of the most common things he hears while traveling in the state is that students don’t understand the fundamentals of the country. He thinks Oklahoma’s colleges of education are not preparing teachers well enough to teach history and are pushing “leftist indoctrination.”

Oklahoma State’s Regents for Higher Education declined to comment.

A former public school history teacher and University of Arkansas graduate, Walters said he “didn’t teach indoctrination at all” in his classroom. He said he learned about America’s founding through self-study and reading primary sources. He said his students did not read “what a 1970s college professor said about the founding documents”, but read the founding documents and took “deep dives” into the primary sources. .

But while working as a history teacher, Walters said he had training in Oklahoma where teachers were told they were not to say anything positive about the Declaration of Independence because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.

“I think it’s outrageous. I said at the time that it was outrageous. We must tell students that the Declaration of Independence changed the course of human events. It’s what made America the leader of the free world, it’s the belief that rights don’t come from a king or the strongest dictator, but rights come from God.

Walters has publicly touted the implementation of the Christian history curriculum developed by Hillsdale College, but said other groups have also developed similar programs and professional development tools.

Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said Walters’ message was frustrating because educators are professionals with integrity who work every day to teach state standards using historically accurate facts.

She said education officials across the country are seeing the same push to implement Hillsdale College’s curriculum.

Bishop sees the “very conservative rhetoric” as part of a nationwide movement to persuade political leaders and parents not to trust public schools and to promote the idea that they should be privatized.

“The more we can keep throwing in words like ‘indoctrination,’ book banning, all these fabricated culture wars that are happening, it’s specifically designed to cause mistrust,” Bishop said. “And it saddens me for him as an educator that he wouldn’t want the best for our students.”

Bishop said the program Walters advocates doesn’t align with Oklahoma’s values.

The Republican-controlled legislature in 2019 adopted the state’s current social studies standards, which were written by Oklahomans and incorporated Oklahoma values, she said. The standards are reviewed every six years.

State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, who heads a public school legislative committee, said the Legislature passed historically accurate history and social studies standards.

Rather than focusing on issues like implementing vouchers or changing the curriculum, McBride said Walters should focus on how to increase test scores and student achievement and better educate the community. future state workforce.

“He has to focus on education. While reading. Writing. Arithmetic,” McBride said. “We are already teaching history in Oklahoma schools.”

Jacob Rosecrants, of Norman, who worked as a history teacher before being elected to the Legislative Assembly, said Walters’ “corner problems” are not helping to improve public schools. Oklahoma history teachers don’t teach ‘one-sided’, but instead focus on teaching critical thinking skills so students can make up their own minds, he said .

“I don’t need a guy coming and telling me that this is Hillsdale College mandatory training,” he said. “Just do a quick Google search on this, and you’ll see exactly how true it is. It has no place in public schools. It certainly doesn’t have to be mandatory training.

He said religious persecution was part of the reason America was founded, but not the only reason, and wondered if Walters had ever taught God-centered lessons about the founding of the nation in his classroom.

“Has he taught what he’s saying right now?” asked Rosecrants. “Did he teach that when he was a history teacher? Because it’s indoctrination.”

Janelle Stecklein covers Oklahoma St

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