Irate Texan Seeks Unbiased Textbook

By James Carneiro (writer bio)
TFN Student Activist

Dozens of Texans descended on the William B. Travis building last month to let the Texas State Board of Education know their feelings.

The consensus: not positive.

The vast majority was opposed to the flawed social studies curriculum standards first approved by the board in 2010. Although there were a few who admired the textbooks’ lack of “political correctness” (Read: acknowledging America’s mistakes) most people had a problem with the biased materials.

The people who testified against the textbooks were a group as diverse as the country the books are supposed to be about. College professors, Tejanos, a climatologist, ministers, civil liberties advocates, an NAACP leader, and a Pauache woman all spoke in front of the board. And even TFN President Kathy Miller showed up to defend unbiased education before the SBOE.

Of course, the SBOE is not an easy body to deal with, especially the far-right members. District 7 board member David Bradley began the hearing by claiming TFN had urged the Supreme Court to ban the Pledge of Allegiance, a lie so egregious even his allies didn’t appear to believe him.

Most of the testifiers expressed concerns about the books.

University of Texas history professor Jacqueline Jones tore the materials apart as only an expert can. Jones said the books’ main problem was they were based on the flawed standards approved by the board. She said they promote ideological biases and omit crucial facts. Jones did compliment a Pearson textbook for being visually stunning, but beauty can’t make up for inaccurate or biased content. By leaving out the experiences of marginalized peoples, the textbook does not truly “celebrate freedom,” she added.

Jones expressed how important quality textbooks really are.

“Our young people are not so naive; they look around and see a complex, highly partisan American political system and a dangerous world,” Jones said. “Unless we enable them to understand the historical roots of the here and now … we cannot prepare them to be informed, engaged citizens of the United States.”

The lack of Tejano representation in the textbooks raised the ire of Dan Arellano, co-chair of Unidos De Austin, and activist Tony Diaz.

Arellano pointed out that people like him created the first Texas Republic and wrote the first Texas Constitution. Arellano was “appalled” while reading the books’ description of Native Texans. He objected to the portrayal of Native Texans as “mindless savages” who constantly preyed on Anglo settlers with no provocation.

“They were evicted from land they lived on for thousands of years,” Arellano explained. “They had reason to be hostile.”

Arellano finished by saying history judges nations on how they treat their minorities.

Diaz’s speech was even more passionate. He said the textbook publishers must correct “cultural deficiencies.” Students in Tucson, Ariz., have protested their schools over not receiving culturally relevant material, Diaz said.

Diaz advised the board to return to the writing process and find textbooks that meet the needs of Texans. If not, litigation could follow.

“You’re sitting on a powder keg of lawsuits,” Diaz warned.

The SBOE will make their final decision and vote on the textbooks in November.