The board voted to enact new teaching standards for history and social studies that will alter which material gets included in school textbooks. It decided to drop Jefferson from a world history section devoted to great political thinkers.
According to Texas Freedom Network, a group that opposes many of the changes put in place by the Board of Education, the original curriculum asked students to "explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present."
That emphasis did not sit well with board member Cynthia Dunbar, who, during Friday's meeting, explained the rationale for changing it. "The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based," Dunbar said.
The new standard, passed at the meeting in a 10-5 vote, now reads, "Explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone."
By dropping mention of revolution, and substituting figures such as Aquinas and Calvin for Jefferson, Texas Freedom Network argues, the board had chosen to embrace religious teachings over those of Jefferson, the man who coined the phrase "separation between church and state."
According to USA Today, the board also voted to strike the word "democratic" from references to the U.S. form of government, replacing it with the term "constitutional republic." Texas textbooks will contain references to "laws of nature and nature's God" in passages that discuss major political ideas.
The board decided to use the words "free enterprise" when describing the U.S. economic system rather than words such as "capitalism," "capitalist" and "free market," which it deemed to have a negative connotation.
Serving 4.7 million students, Texas accounts for a large percentage of the textbook market, and the new standards may influence what is taught in the rest of the country.