A vote in November could create a change for textbooks in Texas classrooms for grades 6-12.
The textbooks in question are history books, which are up for review by the state’s Board of Education. The books would offer a pro-Christian religious view on history, as well as conservative political views.
Members of a review board made up of both liberal and conservative advocates pointed to potentially controversial lessons including: How Moses and King Solomon were the inspiration for American democracy, a negative view on Muslims and Islam, how society has not benefited from taxes used for social programs, and a lesson claiming that climate change is a hoax.
“In all fairness, it’s clear that the publishers struggled with these flawed standards and still managed to do a good job in some areas,” Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, which oversaw the review, in a statement. “On the other hand, a number of textbook passages essentially reflect the ideological beliefs of politicians on the state board rather than sound scholarship and factual history.”
A little more than 100 textbooks on these subjects and more must be approved by the state’s Board of Education by November to be used by the state’s over 5 million public school students.
A separate analysis performed by the nonprofit Texas Freedom Network discovered material that downplayed segregation and “gave nods to neo-Confederate arguments” suggesting the Civil War began over issues of state’s rights rather than slavery.
While textbooks have long been argued over, this time both liberals and conservatives are angry. Both parties are complaining about a number of issues within the books, including one portion stating minimum wage was a controversial legacy of the New Deal, passages that offered a pro-Israeli view on Middle East conflicts, and an overemphasis on the Ten Commandments and other Christian views during the American Revolution.
“We do our students a disservice when we scrub history clean of unpleasant truths,” Jacqueline Jones, chairwoman of the University of Texas’ History Department, told the AP, “and when we present an inaccurate view of the past that promotes a simple-minded, ideologically driven point of view.”
The debate over textbooks is just one part of the ongoing political battle in the state over academic standards and statewide curricula.
“[T]he controversy in Texas … hints at rising tensions across the U.S. over academic standards, as conservatives have mobilized aggressively to shape what students learn in science, social studies and beyond,” reported Politico. “The Texas textbooks, most of them from major publishing houses, were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 – with the explicit intention of tugging social studies teaching to the right.”
Politico reports that new state standards are requiring teachers to promote conservative views and highlight Christianity within America.
The new textbooks are set to be distributed to schools by fall 2015.