David Barton on majorities and minority rights

Under Construction

I don’t have time to write this post right now — hopefully I’ll get to it before too long.

But I did want to post these paragraphs now while people are looking for this.

These relate to a story on Al Sharpton’s show on MSNBC tonight (Aug 24, 2011) on Rick Perry and David Barton, and Barton’s views as reported by the Washington Monthly:

Barton and Peter Marshall initially tried to purge the  standards of key figures of the civil rights era, such as César Chávez and  Thurgood Marshall, though they were forced to back down amid a deafening public  uproar. They have since resorted to a more subtle tack; while they concede that  people like Martin Luther King Jr. deserve a place in history, they argue that  they shouldn’t be given credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As  Barton put it, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s  constitutional society.” Ergo, any rights people of color have were handed to them  by whites—in his view, mostly white Republican men.

Barton review of proposed revised Texas social studies standards:

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Multiple locations in the TEKS even suggest that it is people from “racial, ethnic, and religious groups” who “expand political rights in American society.” This is an absolutely false premise. Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society. In fact, in every case where a constitutional protection has been established for a minority, whether of race, gender, social status, or age, each protection was extended by the consent of the majority of eligible voters at that time. | For example, it was predominantly white males and a small portion of Free-Blacks who established the constitutional protections for black Americans given in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments (it took two-thirds of the whites in Congress, and the majority of whites in three-fourths the states to pass and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery). Similarly, the constitutional rights accorded to women in the Nineteenth Amendment were accorded them by the majority approval of only men, both white and black. In like manner, the constitutional rights accorded explicitly to the poor by the abolition of the poll tax in the Twenty-Fourth Amendment came at the approval of the majority of non-poor. Additionally, the constitutional right granted in the Twenty-Sixth Amendment allowing eighteen-year olds to vote was given by the approval of voters over the age of twenty-one.

Multiple locations in the TEKS even suggest that it is people from “racial, ethnic, and religious groups” who “expand political rights in American society.” This is an absolutely false premise. Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society. In fact, in every case where a constitutional protection has been established for a minority, whether of race, gender, social status, or age, each protection was extended by the consent of the majority of eligible voters at that time. | For example, it was predominantly white males and a small portion of Free-Blacks who established the constitutional protections for black Americans given in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments (it took two-thirds of the whites in Congress, and the majority of whites in three-fourths the states to pass and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery). Similarly, the constitutional rights accorded to women in the Nineteenth Amendment were accorded them by the majority approval of only men, both white and black. In like manner, the constitutional rights accorded explicitly to the poor by the abolition of the poll tax in the Twenty-Fourth Amendment came at the approval of the majority of non-poor. Additionally, the constitutional right granted in the Twenty-Sixth Amendment allowing eighteen-year olds to vote was given by the approval of voters over the age of twenty-one.

HSAmHist – (new)24C. (A) explain actions taken by people from racial, ethnic, and religious groups to expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society; This TEKS conveys the false premise that it is the people from “racial, ethnic, and religious groups” who “expand political rights in American society.” This is an absolutely false premise – as fully demonstrated in “Comment A: The Fundamental Principle of the Constitution” on p. 1 above. Various “racial, ethnic, and religious groups” may have taken action, but they definitely did not “expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society”; only the majority can do that (as they have on countless occasions). For the TEKS above to be accurate, it should say: (A) explain actions taken by people from racial, ethnic, and religious groups to expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society;

HSAmHist – (new)24C. (A) explain actions taken by people from racial, ethnic, and religious groups to expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society; This TEKS conveys the false premise that it is the people from “racial, ethnic, and religious groups” who “expand political rights in American society.” This is an absolutely false premise – as fully demonstrated in “Comment A: The Fundamental Principle of the Constitution” on p. 1 above. Various “racial, ethnic, and religious groups” may have taken action, but they definitely did not “expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society”; only the majority can do that (as they have on countless occasions). For the TEKS above to be accurate, it should say: (A) explain actions taken by people from racial, ethnic, and religious groups to expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society;

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Has no one other than an individual from a “racial, ethnic, or religious group” shaped American culture? As just demonstrated in the TEKS above, the best “group” to shape American culture is the majority, and that majority may be composed of any variety of racial, ethnic, and religious groups, but it was the collective majority – not the individual smaller groups or subsets of the majority – that made successful change. I maintain the premise (as illustrated throughout this review) that if history is taught accurately, diversity of “culture” will be presented without having to invent a superficial strand.

Has no one other than an individual from a “racial, ethnic, or religious group” shaped American culture? As just demonstrated in the TEKS above, the best “group” to shape American culture is the majority, and that majority may be composed of any variety of racial, ethnic, and religious groups, but it was the collective majority – not the individual smaller groups or subsets of the majority – that made successful change. I maintain the premise (as illustrated throughout this review) that if history is taught accurately, diversity of “culture” will be presented without having to invent a superficial strand.

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Donald McLeroy, leader of the right-wing block of the State Board of Education, used this argument from Barton as the Board was re-writing the Social Studies standards for the State of Texas:

Click here to see how Barton’s argument was used in the Texas standards review process, and how it is reflected in the revised Texas social studies standards.

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    What’s up mates, nice post and fastidious arguments commented at this place, I am actually enjoying by these.


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