As goes Texas…

‘ If you haven’t heard yet, the Texas Board of Education has approved a social studies curriculum that demonstrates a clear bias toward politically conservative ideology. (Washington Post, NYT)’  In the words of one Board member: “I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say, evolution is hooey.” and, “The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan — he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.” (Interview on AlterNet)

Texas teachers constructed a curriculum, but Republican board members have peppered it with amendments including:

  • Rejection of the separation of church and state
  • Emphasis on the “conservative resurgence” of the 1980s and ‘90s
  • Giving the Black Panthers equal coverage along with Martin Luther King, Jr. in chapters on civil rights
  • Replacing the word “capitalism” in economics textbooks with “free-enterprise system”
  • Consistently rejecting requests to include positive Latino role models
  • De-emphasis of Thomas Jefferson’s role in the formation of the country

This is troubling for Texas, to be sure, but the other 49 states can breathe a sigh of relief, right?’  At least that guy’s not choosing textbooks for MY state!

Wrong.

For decades, the Texas Board of Ed has had de facto veto power over textbook publishing in this country.’  I first read about it in the mid-90s, in James Loewen’s remarkable book Lies My Teacher Told Me. Because the entire state holds to a single curriculum, whatever materials they select will automatically be purchased by every school.’  That means that publishers would be foolish not to tailor their titles to the needs of this second-largest market.’ ‘  The options available to schools in other states are curtailed because Texas wields such enormous power.’  In other years, California (the #1 market) has had a mitigating effect, but this year cash-strapped CA is holding off on buying new materials.

This might be a good time to find out how textbooks are selected in your state, and what you can do to influence those choices in your community.

Karl Siewert

YALSA Intellectual Freedom Interest Group

About Intellectual Freedom Committee

The intellectual freedom committee serves as a liaison between the YALSA and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and all other groups within the Association concerned with intellectual freedom.
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5 Comments

  1. Your links to the Post and NYT articles do not seem to work… error message about not finding server.

  2. Links fixed. Thanks for the heads-up.

  3. Boy,
    I thought we were done with this, after the Garbers from Longview, Texas
    stop harassing the textbook committee.

    ( I grew up in Kilgore, nine miles away)

  4. I did not think that the issue of Israel was the most germaine to the subject. Yes it was a quote, and there are a lot of right wing Christians that support the right wing government in Israel, but I really think it wasn’t the most important thing about the subject at hand and maybe a way to get a dig at Israel.

    • I agree, Cathy. Israel is always being singled out by groups and individuals who ignore the reality of the truly horrible atrocities taking place in almost all of Israel’s neighboring countries in the region and elsewhere in the world. Israel has enemies on both the right and the left. And to counter another extreme right wing myth, there are plenty of liberals–like myself–who support Israel, while not being above criticizing her when we believe it is in order to do so.

      At the same time, I’m also appalled by the agenda of the Texas Board of Education, which , if what is stated above is to be believed, is deeply sectarian, steeped in mythology, and totally out-of-whack.

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