Texas Delays Decisive Action on Textbook Controversy

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The Texas Board of Education has delayed decisive action on new social studies textbooks and e-books upon discovering that corrections were still being made by several publishers.

Testimony was heard earlier in the week by the board concerning the new textbooks which critics claim focus on Christian ideology.  A vote is expected later in the week on whether or not to approve over 100 books for use by students in elementary and high school.  Once textbooks are used in Texas, the second-most populous state, they may influence curricular decisions on a national level.

“Texas is in a leadership position and at the moment, they are abusing that position,” said Emile Lester, an associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, who wrote a critical review of some of the U.S. history textbooks that may be approved.

A motion for tentative approval of the textbooks failed with five members voting yes, five voting no, and four abstaining.  One was absent.

“I am just not comfortable voting for something until I read it. I want to see the responses. I don’t want to lead the publishers on, making them think I am going to vote for them on Friday because I voted for them today,” explained Board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, who was among those who abstained.

Critics like Lester say the books focus on the role that Biblical figures like Moses, who is referred to as “the first American,” play in the forming of the nation’s founding documents.  They feel that the books pay little attention to the separation of church and state.

In addition, world geography textbooks were found to not discuss enough the role played by armed conquest in the spread of Christianity, and several large issues were found in the descriptions of the world’s major religions.

The textbooks do adhere to curriculum set by the board in 2010, when standards were set that emphasized conservative thoughts.  Social studies textbooks in the state have not seen an approval since 2002, and are set to be used in classrooms beginning in the fall of 2015.

The predominantly Republican board is asking for changes to be made to the textbooks, including stating that man-made activity is viewed by scientists as being responsible for climate change.  While many publishers are agreeing to make the changes asked for, Pearson is refusing to change its Contemporary World Classics book which says that jihad means “the struggle to be a better person,” despite critics’ views that it actually means holy war.

The conservative group Truth in Texas Textbooks is asking for more to be included in textbooks concerning the use of force to spread the religion of Islam across the globe.

Public schools in the state are allowed to choose their own books and materials, but must choose from a state-approved list.

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

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