Open letter to the Texas State Board of Education

Dear Board,

It seems the work groups have decided that our standards exaggerate the biblical influence on the founding of our country. This is simply not true. All we need to do is teach our children what really happened in the past. Here’s some excerpts from Thomas Cahill’s, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Change the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. This book is from his Hinge of History series.

• The Jews started it all—and by “it” I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and gentile, believer and atheist, tick. P. 3

• The Jews were the first people to break out of the circle, [a cyclical worldview] to find a new way of thinking and experiencing, a new way of understanding and feeling the world, so much so that it may be said with some justice that theirs is the only new idea that human beings ever had. P. 5

• …the Bible is rightly considered the book of the Western world—its foundational document… p.6

• But to understand ourselves—and the identity we carry so effortlessly that most “moderns” no longer give any thought to the origins of attitudes we have come to take as natural and self-evident—we must return to this great document, the cornerstone of Western civilization. P 7-8

• But this peculiar migration would change the face of the earth by permanently changing the minds and hearts of human beings. (Referring to the call of Abraham in Genesis 12) P.59

• But as we follow the wanderings of Abraham’s children down through the centuries, we will witness many such developments. We will be witnesses, in fact, to the slow evolution of our entire system of values. P. 96

• The Jews gave us a whole new vocabulary, a whole new Temple of the Spirit, an inner landscape of ideas and feelings that had never been known before. Over many centuries of trauma and suffering they came to believe in one God, the Creator of the universe, whose meaning underlies all his creation and who enters human history to bring his purposes to pass. Because of their unique belief—monotheism—the Jews were able to give us the Great Whole, a unified universe that makes sense and that, because of its evident superiority as a worldview, completely overwhelms the warring and contradictory phenomena of polytheism. They gave us the Conscience of the West, the belief that this God who is one is not the God of outward show but the “still, small voice” of conscience, the God of compassion, the God who “will be there,” the God who cares about each of his creatures, especially the human beings he created “in his own image,” and that he insists we do the same. P. 239-240

• The Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside–our outlook and inner life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best words, in fact—new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice—are gifts of the Jews. P. 240-241

• But however miraculous Jewish survival may be, the greater miracle is surely that the Jews developed a whole new way of experiencing reality, the only alternative to all ancient worldviews and all ancient religions. If one is ever to find the finger of God in human affairs, one must find it here. P. 246

• We are the undeserving recipients of this history of the Jews, this long, excessive, miraculous development of ethical monotheism without which our ideas of equality and personalism are unlikely ever to have come into being and surely never have matured in the way that they have. P. 250

• Unbelievers might wish to stop for a moment and consider how completely God—this Jewish God of justice and compassion—undergirds all our values and that it is just possible that human effort without this God is doomed to certain failure. P. 251

Please do not under emphasize our precious biblical heritage. Again, the children deserve to know what really happened in the past.

Don McLeroy

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