The Texas State Board of Education decides what every student in Texas public schools will learn from kindergarten through high school. The board does so by adopting curriculum standards and textbooks for public schools in the state.

For decades, politicians on the State Board of Education and their activist allies have taken advantage of this flawed system to dismiss the advice of experts and scholars. They have instead worked to inject their personal views into textbooks on everything from evolution and climate change to the history of slavery, civil rights and separation of church and state.

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The Latest on Textbook Censorship

When Texas last adopted social studies textbooks in 2002, the new texts — particularly for the Grade 7 Texas History course — came under heavy fire from critics concerned over what they saw as poor coverage of the history and experiences of Mexican Americans. So when publishers submitted their proposed new textbooks this past spring, we wanted to know how their products covered Mexican-American history in the Lone Star State.

The answer: coverage is considerably better than it was 12 years ago, but some concerns remain.

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund asked Dr. Jose Maria Herrera, a historian at the University of Texas at El Paso, to review textbooks for the Grade 7 Texas History. Textbooks from major publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education are the only ones currently under consideration by the State Board of Education. Herrera summarized his findings in reports to each of the three publishers today:

“I evaluated the sections of your product that are pertinent to my field of expertise – 19th century American history and U.S./Mexican relations during the early National period (i.e. topics 3-4 and parts of 5). I also reviewed the sections related to Mexican-American history during the 20th century. … Overall, I found coverage of… Read More

So what’s been happening in the controversial social studies textbook adoption in Texas? Since the State Board of Education’s first public hearing on the adoption in September and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s release of scholarly reviews of the proposed textbooks, publishers have been considering changes to their textbooks. Today the state board met to hear publishers tell them what they plan to do, and TFN has had a chance to review those changes.

In short, publishers are making some good changes to address the legitimate concerns noted by our scholars. They also appear to be resisting pressure from right-wing groups and activists to insert more distortions and bias, particularly more information reinforcing negative stereotypes of Muslims. But the news is far from all good. Many problems remain, especially textbook passages that exaggerate, and even invent, religious influences on the American founding. We just sent out this press release:

PUBLISHERS MAKE SOME CORRECTIONS, BUT PROBLEMS REMAIN IN TEXAS TEXTBOOK ADOPTION

Publishers Also Largely Appear to Be Resisting Demands from Extremists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 20, 2014

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund today applauded select… Read More

When the State Board of Education held its first public hearing on proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools, scholars from across the state (and from outside Texas) expressed their concerns about serious problems in those texts. Kathleen Wellman, Dedman Family Distinguished Professor of History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, was particularly concerned with how the textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influences on the American founding.

That exaggeration goes so far, Wellman notes in the video clip of her September testimony above, that the textbooks essentially make Moses “the Founding Father.” The impression students will get? Wellman, with only a hint of sarcasm:

“I think they’ll believe that Moses was the first American.”

Religious-righters on the State Board of Education in Texas hoped for this kind of textbook content when they passed deeply flawed and politicized new curriculum standards for social studies classes in 2010. The new textbooks must cover those standards.

You can read more about the problems in the proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools here: tfn.org/history. While you’re there, sign the petition calling for textbooks based on honest, accurate history, not the ideological beliefs of politicians on the State Board… Read More

This cartoon from Pearson Education’s Magruder’s American Government is an example of how Tea Party rhetoric shapes discussions on issues such as taxation and government regulation in proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools. The same textbook includes this passage:

“In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., taxes are ‘what we pay for civilized society.’ Society does not appear to be much more civilized today than it was when Justice Holmes made that observation in 1927. However, ‘what we pay’ has certainly gone up.”

Dr. Emile Lester, who reviewed the government textbooks publishers are proposing this year for Texas schools, explains what’s wrong with this passage in his report:

“The text neglects to mention that defenders of increased taxation for an expanded safety net would respond that programs adopted since 1927 such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act have produced such ‘civilized’ benefits as a drastic reduction of poverty and economic insecurity among the elderly, children, and the population at large, and improved and more equal access to health care.”

Right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education in Texas hoped for this kind of textbook content when they passed deeply… Read More

Ignorance and political nonsense clearly aren’t problems just on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). A Colorado Board of Education member this week echoed the ridiculous complaints of her right-wing counterparts in Texas about the new framework for the popular AP U.S. History course for high school students. Critics have charged that the new framework is unpatriotic and worse. Here’s how Colorado board member Pam Mazanec argued on her Facebook page that students should learn about American “exceptionalism” instead of “negative viewpoints” about our nation’s history:

“As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH (AP U.S. History) framework support or denigrate that position?”

For the record, well over 1 million Union and Confederate troops were killed, wounded or died of disease in the very bloody Civil War that led to the supposedly “voluntary” end of slavery in this country. Recent scholarship (bad word for right-wingers, we know) suggests that the number of military deaths wasRead More

Texas Freedom Network

.@pastors4txkids are incredible advocates for public schools. Definitely recommend a follow! twitter.com/pastors4…