Just in time for the latest round of political exploitation of a gun-related tragedy, it has been discovered that a school history textbook used in some Texas high schools (and probably others) mis-states the meaning of the Second Amendment, neatly editing away the part that all the controversy is about.
In fact, John J. Newman’s “United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination,” rewrites the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. On page 102 of Newman’s book (page 134 of the PDF version), the author summarizes the amendment in a way that distorts its meaning:
Could this be intentional? Well, it is certainly wrong, and one is not being conspiratorial to wonder how such a blatant error 1) got into a history text in the first place , 2) passed any review process, and 3) lasted this long.
It is well-established that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and not only in a militia. How far that guarantee extends is indeed a matter of intense debate, but Newman has misleadingly limited that right only to those who are members of a government militia, essentially editing the amendment right into obsolescence. Though that is clearly where many anti-gun zealots, including Senator Diane Fienstein, CNN talk-meister Piers Morgan, and many others would like to see it go, it is not the current state of the law, and never has been.The Supreme Court opinion in District of Columbia vs Heller (2008), which is not mentioned in the textbook, held that the Second Amendment “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
There is no defending Newman’s textbook, except as a justifiable attempt to destroy the Second Amendment by teaching students that the right to bear arms doesn’t exist in the modern world—in other words, by using deception and indoctrination. The determined anti-gun forces have certainly not been hesitant to use disinformation to get their way: it’s going on right now. Without waiting for confirmation of the initial speculation, everyone from Feinstein to the anti-gun news media spread the narrative that the recent Washington Naval Yard shooting was yet another mass murder executed with a semi-automatic weapon, the AR-15, or that it could have been prevented by more stringent background checks. Neither was the case: the shooter’s weapon was a shotgun that he could have purchased under current or proposed laws, and no assault weapons were involved. (Hilariously, Morgan, having ranted about the insanity of allowing the Ar-15 to be sold in the U.S. in the immediate wake of the shooting, shrugged off his mistake by tweeting, “Do you think it matters to the victims?“)
CBS, commenting on the complaints about the textbook, headlined its story “Gun Rights Advocates Want History Book Removed From Texas School.” After all, why would the mere fact that a text book is inexcusably, undeniably, incompetently and misleadingly wrong about the content and meaning of one of the provisions of the Bill of Rights matter to anyone who wasn’t a gun nut, right, CBS? I guess no good progressives would deem an embarrassing, ahistorical misstatement in a book used to educate–make that mis-educate…or should we say indoctrinate?—high school students a sufficient reason to junk the book, would they? The book may not state the way it really is, but isn’t what matters the way it should be? At very least, the headline-writer has these thoughts rattling around in his unethical skull.
CBS found a good example of this mindset in Dr. Joseph Ignagni, a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas. He claimed that the book’s version of the Second Amendment wasn’t inaccurate until 2008, arguing that the individual’s right to bear arms has grown stronger in the last decade, as more courts side with individuals in gun law cases. “Until 2008, that was not a fact. Not in terms of the Supreme Court. Not in terms of what most people believed the Founding Fathers were intending,” said Dr. Ignagni. Baloney, to be colloquial. “Most people” means “most people he hung around with,” for the broader interpretation of the amendment to guarantee gun ownership has been furiously maintained by half the population or more and much of the scholarly community since it was ratified over 200 years ago. The textbook’s version of its meaning has never been a fact, but an ideological contention, and for a textbook to print it as fact before or after 2008 is inexcusable.
Unless you think kids should be indoctrinated to think like Piers Morgan.
The new publishers of the book have vowed to fix this and any other errors in it, which does not answer the question of how this propaganda got into the classroom in the first place. The charitable interpretation is Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” But is that naive in this case? A Texas school district using the text explained itself by pointing out that it was only a “supplemental” text, and that the main text used in classes stated the Amendment correctly. “The teachers and staff are aware of this ‘summary statement’ and are teaching the amendments from the classroom textbook….All other materials are supplemental.Please be assured that Denton ISD history teachers are disseminating the correct information on the Second Amendment,” its statement read.
To which I retort, “Huh?” The supplement is wrong; never mind that it may not be the main text, why is it in use at all? Why should we trust teachers—who, as far as we know, are ready to suspend students who mention guns, wear guns on their T-shirts, bite their pizzas into gun-ish shapes, or point their fingers in the shape of a pistol—to disseminate “the correct information on the Second Amendment,’ when the entire education profession shows signs of anti-gun derangement all over the nation? How about this: let’s have only accurate descriptions of the Bill of Rights in textbooks that are allowed into schools, and have the teachers teach from those. Is that unreasonable? ( Apparently another history text, used as a main text in some South Carolina high schools, includes a similar misrepresentation of the Second Amendment. I’m sure its a coincidence, aren’t you?)
I’m willing to attribute this episode to stupidity by the textbook publishers and slovenly review by school boards, but there is plenty of reason to be dubious. The anti-gun forces, since Sandy Hook and before, have shown themselves to be ruthless and shameless about twisting facts and events to accomplish their ends: getting an anti-gun version of the Second Amendment taught in the schools doesn’t seem out of character.