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

The far right’s war on public education has a new target: Advanced Placement U.S. History, of all things. And now efforts to censor what students learn in those courses has sparked a growing backlash from students, parents, teachers and advocacy groups that are worried about efforts to politicize the popular course taken by nearly a half-million high schoolers across the country.

The manufactured controversy over AP U.S. History has roots, as this informative summary points out, at the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). That should be no surprise to anyone who knows just how politicized the SBOE is and how influential its far-right bloc has been over the past decade.

Texas SBOE member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, began flogging the issue earlier this year, insisting (misleadingly and inaccurately) that the College Board’s revamped framework for the course undermined patriotism and promoted America-bashing. Joined by variety of Tea Party and other right-wing activists, Mercer has claimed that the framework leaves out key patriotic figures and emphasizes negative aspects of American history. Activists supporting his efforts call the course anti-American, argue that it is tied to Common Core curriculum standards (which they see as practically satanic), and criticize examples of what they darkly call  “progressive education” throughout the… Read More

What will students learn about segregation if the State Board of Education approves new social studies textbooks publishers have submitted this year for use in Texas public schools? Bowing to the desires of right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education, some of the textbooks give legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” causing the Civil War and the legacy of slavery after that war.

As Edward Countryman, distinguished professor of history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, points out in his report on the proposed history textbooks for the TFN Education Fund, rejects the textbook suggestions that “states’ rights” was a major cause of secession and the war that followed:

“The concept of ‘states’ rights’ in an abstract sense as a defense of secession did not appear until after the conclusion of the Civil War. Contemporaneous documents and statements by southerners make it plain that slavery was the underlying reason for their action.”

But the failure of some textbooks to teach students about the severity of the discrimination and oppression suffered by African Americans in the decades after the war is also problematic. McGraw-Hill’s United States Government textbook, for example, understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of segregated African-American schools… Read More

This month’s public hearing at the State Board of Education (SBOE) highlighted serious problems in the proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools. Scholars working with the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund noted many of those problems in extensive reviews of the new textbooks. We released our scholars’ reports on those textbooks September 10. You can read the reports here.

We knew there would be problems in 2010, when religious-right members of the SBOE passed new curriculum standards requiring Texas schools to teach students that Moses influenced the writing of America’s founding documents. Historians and constitutional scholars have dismissed that requirement as absurd. But publishers appear to have felt compelled to include those claims in their textbooks anyway.

Perfection Learning’s Basic Principles of American Government textbook puts Moses ahead of John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu in a list of “philosophers, historians and economists” from whom the nation’s Founders got their ideas for the U.S. Constitution. The text also goes so far as to suggest that the story of Moses getting the Ten Commandments from God is historical fact:

 “Moses (born in the Second Millennium BCE in Egype) was the Hebrew leader who forced the Pharaoh to release his people from slavery. During their years of… Read More

The Texas Freedom Network has been very fortunate to work with respected professionals on a number of projects over the years. Among those professionals are scholars at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — scholars who care as much as we do that Texas students get honest textbooks based on facts and sound scholarship, not the political agendas of ideologues on the State Board of Education.

So we were pleased late last week to see SMU’s press office acknowledge the university’s scholars who have worked with TFN on issues ranging from public school Bible courses to the adoption of science and social studies textbooks. Check out the SMU press release  below (and online here):

SMU experts address controversial content proposed for Texas’ new public school textbooks

‘This is not a political issue. It is simply whether the books provide good history.’

September 19, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences faculty members Ron Wetherington, Kathleen Wellman, David Brockman and Edward Countryman are speaking out about what they see as “flawed” and “distorted” textbooks being considered for Texas classrooms.

Wetherington, Wellman and Brockman addressed the State Board of Education (SBOE) at a daylong hearing in Austin on Sept. 16.… Read More

As we reported on Monday, a National Center for Science Education review finds that a number of proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools promote climate science denialism. One geography textbook, from publisher McGraw-Hill, even includes a passage written by political hacks at the polluter-funded Heartland Institute — the right-wing organization that a few years ago launched an infamous billboard campaign that featured “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski supposedly claiming: “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”

The McGraw-Hill textbook passage, written by Heartland’s Joseph Bast and James M. Taylor, also attacks the overwhelming scientific evidence showing that climate change is a real and growing threat. The textbook irresponsibly uses that factually inaccurate passage as a counterpoint to a paragraph from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

So who are Bast and Taylor?

Taylor is a senior fellow for Heartland and serves as managing editor of the organization’s Environment and Climate News publication.  He is also a spokesperson on a variety of media outlets and at events held by political groups like the similarly right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. And he writes a regular column on “energy and environmental issues” for Forbes magazine.

But Taylor isn’t a scientist. He’s a lawyer. His Heartland bio says… Read More

Texas Freedom Network

@SIECUS @kmillertfn @TXCapTonight This campaign for medically accurate, comprehensive and inclusive #SexEducation will stretch into next year when the TX State Board of Education is scheduled to make a decision. Find the TFN and SEICUS recs and ways to get involved at: tfn.org/sex-ed #TeachTheTruth pic.twitter.com/eoMv…