Group: ‘Textbook Approval Is Power’

We told you yesterday how the old warhorse of the right-wing censorship movement in Texas, Educational Research Analysts, works to intimidate publishers and promote a divisive ideological agenda in public school textbooks. As we reported, the group’s July newsletter called for the Texas State Board of Education to reject textbooks that are allegedly anti-Christian and pro-Muslim (even though claims of such bias are not supported by facts).

Another passage from that same newsletter makes the religious right’s obsession with political power and pushing an ideological agenda rather than educating kids even clearer:

“Many wrongly think Texas’ SBOE can reject only those textbooks that meet less than 50% of its course content standards, flunk certain manufacturing guidelines, or contain factual errors. But it can also dump those that clearly conflict with basic democratic values. For the first time ever the SBOE should invoke that power to warn publishers not to pander to Islam against Christianity … in their new high school World History submissions. Christian conservative mastery of detail in Texas’ textbook approval process is power.” [emphasis added]

This is a stunning declaration by culture warriors who are determined to put their personal political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren. Yet it is not a toothless declaration: for nearly two decades, far-right pressure groups and their wealthy supporters have slowly built a powerful faction of culture warriors on the state board. And that faction of political extremists is determined to control what our public schools teach millions of Texas kids, even if it means distorting what the law really says.

Here are just some of the fruits of their dangerous and divisive efforts:

  • Health textbooks in Texas classrooms don’t include a shred of medically accurate information on contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases even though Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country.
  • Science curriculum standards now promote creationist arguments and junk science in our children’s classrooms.
  • Social studies standards suggest that the Constitution doesn’t protect separation of church and state, promote the traitorous and secessionist arguments of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and suggest that the Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunts in the 1950s were somehow justified.

Two Texas attorneys general have issued opinions that contradict the claim by the censors at Educational Research Analysts that the state board has expansive power to reject textbooks if board members don’t agree with the content in those books. Those AG opinions validate a 1995 statute that is crystal clear: the state board must approve textbooks that cover the curriculum standards, meet manufacturing requirements and are free of factual errors.

Legislators wisely passed that law because they had grown weary of state board member who were sometimes demanding hundreds of changes to textbooks simply because they had personal or political objections to content. The claim now that the state board may reject textbooks that “conflict with basic democratic values” is a naked power grab that would completely undermine the intent of that 1995 statute. Indeed, such decisions would be based on highly subjective political judgments about whether content “conflicts” with “basic democratic values.” As a result, decisions about what our schoolchildren learn in their classrooms would be based on the personal and political opinions of whatever majority controlled the state board, not on facts and sound scholarship.

The Texas Freedom Network has done much to expose extremism on the state board over the past 15 years. We believe that’s one reason at least two members of the far-right faction — Don McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar — won’t be returning to the board in January. Republican voters rejected McLeroy’s re-election bid in the March GOP primary. Dunbar knew re-election would be difficult and recruited a replacement — another extremist whom GOP primary voters overwhelmingly rejected last spring.

But those electoral setbacks won’t stop the efforts of culture warriors to hijack our children’s education. You can help us defeat those efforts by joining our campaign to reform the State Board of Education and the way Texas decides what our children learn in public schools. Texas families deserve a state board that focuses on just educating our children, not promoting personal and political agendas.