Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: FL Public schools - the Wall of Separation is about to Crumble, 28 April '11

That impenetrable wall that our founding fathers built in between church and state is starting to crumble today. Conservatives around the country with the help of corporate hacksaws are chipping away piece by piece at this wall of separation - and they aren’t going to be satisfied until the entire thing comes crumbling down.

To see exactly what’s going on - we have to turn to Florida where the Republican-controlled state government is letting corporations suck money out of funding for public schools and divert it to private for-profit religious schools that are making CEOs filthy rich - and can teach our students a radical new curriculum. Basically corporations are giving school vouchers to parents to send their kids to private schools - and the state is then turning around and giving those same corporations dollar-for-dollar tax breaks for every voucher they hand out.

It’s against the Constitution for public money to go to private religious institutions - but if that money is laundered first through corporations by way of tax breaks - then private religious schools and the politicians they own can skirt the law. And as states lose out on critical tax revenue thanks to these vouchers - they then have to cut back on funding and shut down public schools. So private schools with wealthy CEOs win - religious schools win - corporations with massive tax breaks win - but public schools lose out big time.

And our founding fathers - like Thomas Jefferson - who went to great lengths to make sure that the government doesn’t outsource work to churches - are rolling in their graves as they watch this slow creep of Christianization in our public school system.

It’s simple - today’s Republican Party wants to get rid of public education in America. Heck - the Tea Party brags about how they want to destroy the Department of Education. And at the same time, Republican politicians want to hand off as much money as they can to religious leaders so they'll get their support from the pulpit at election time.

There’re 2 reasons why this is going on.

One - Conservatives today have an unholy alliance with corporations who see big bucks in transforming free public education into money-making for-profit private education.

And two - Conservatives today have an unholy alliance with the religious Right that figures if we’re going to push kids into private schools - they may as well be religious schools.

It’s about re-education - and it goes beyond what’s happening in Florida.

Last year - the Texas Board of Education voted to completely re-write American history with a Conservative slant. And since the Texas board of educational standards - with their massive buying power and political agenda - sets the standards for schoolbook content nationwide, - then we all end up feeling the effects of this politically motivated rewrite. Students will now learn that our founders thought merging church and state was just fine - and that the American Revolution was a Christian Revolution. They’ll also be taught less about the importance of Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights movement - and more about the Black Panthers and violence during the Civil Rights movement.

They’ll also learn more about Civil Rights legislation that Republicans supported rather than the legislation that Republicans filibustered. They’ll learn about the “unintended consequences” of progressive legislation like the New Deal - the Great Society - Affirmative Action - and Title 9 - while at the same time learning about the benefits of right-wing movements and groups like the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association. Yes, they're putting the Moral Majority and the NRA into our textbooks, right there where Thomas Jefferson used to be.

They’ll learn that the Communist witch hunts by Republican Joe McCarthy were justified and productive.

They’ll learn that the economist Milton Friedman - the guy who inspired Reaganomics and crashed our economy - is just as important to economics as Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes.

They’ll learn that Thomas Jefferson’s ideas didn’t inspire the American Revolution - but instead religious thinkers like John Calvin and St. Thomas Aquinas did. Right…Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence isn’t important to Enlightenment thinking - but neo-Calvinists who argued that rich people are chosen by God to be our leaders are. In fact, to a large extent, they're stripping Jefferson out of the textbooks altogether.

I guess that makes sense considering that Thomas Jefferson was the most vocal about separation of church and state and about the importance of free, public education - the two things that these right-wingers are trying to dismantle.

Students will also learn that Jefferson Davis - the guy who started the American Civil War had legitimate concerns with Abraham Lincoln - and it wasn't just about slavery. I mean you can’t even make this stuff up. When Michele Bachmann was spewing out her conspiracy theories about re-education camps - it turns out she was right. Our students will be completely re-educated in coming decades thanks to a handful of right-wingers in Texas who have managed to white-wash American history.

But that’s not all - in Tennessee - Republican lawmakers are trying to re-visit the Scopes Monkey Trial - to force teachers to teach that evolution is on even footing with the world beginning 6000 years ago - even though the entirety of the Scientific Community has accepted evolution as simply the way things work.

So from selling off public schools to for-profit private schools - the majority of which are religious schools - like we’re seeing in Florida - to re-telling American history through the eyes of Ronald Reagan - to discrediting the science of evolution in favor of religious answers that question things like Global Warming - we are raising an entire generation of right-wing zombies today in an American that’s vastly different from the one that our founding fathers created.

In 1808 - then-President Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

How much clearer can it get?

And in regard to public education - in 1816 - Jefferson wrote how important it was that we institute:

"A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens from the richest to the poorest..."

No wonder the Republicans on the Texas School Board don’t want our kids learning about Jefferson.

In 1789 - Jefferson wrote,

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government."

But unfortunately today - Conservatives are going to great lengths to make sure the people are NOT well-informed.

And as a result - our country - and our small-D democracy are more in peril than ever before.

That's The Big Picture.

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Chuck Schumer made that very clear during a speech yesterday on the senate floor.

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