Live-Blogging the Texas Social Studies Textbook Vote

9:13 – The State Board of Education (SBOE) is set today to vote on which proposed new social studies textbooks to adopt for Texas public schools. Publishers have been submitting changes to their textbooks since the public hearing on Tuesday. The last batch of changes — listed on more than 800 pages from publisher WorldView Software — was posted on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website mid-afternoon on Thursday. Who has reviewed these and other revisions from publishers? The truth is that there is no official process for doing so. It’s hard to believe that SBOE members had time to do it. They were in meetings Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, for example, they debated important issues such as whether teachers should be thrown in jail if they use instructional materials tied to Common Core standards. (Seriously.) So SBOE members today are being asked to vote on textbooks that they, TEA staff and most Texans haven’t had time to read and scholars haven’t had an opportunity to vet. But millions of public school students will use these textbooks over the next decade. The SBOE meeting agenda includes a variety of preliminary agenda items before board members take up the textbook issue. We’ll keep you updated.

10:15 – The SBOE is taking up the textbook adoption now. Board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, is proposing that the SBOE not consider any publisher changes that haven’t yet been posted on the TEA website because the public hasn’t had a chance to review them.

10:21 – SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, asks board members to look at changes publishers have offered this morning. Oh sure. Fine. But what about scholars and teachers having an opportunity to review the materials before the SBOE votes? This is absurd.

10:24 – SBOE member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville, asks about the hundreds of pages of changes publishers have submitted that haven’t been vetted by anyone? Good question. He’s pointing out that this isn’t an open process. He’s right. Cortez is echoing concerns noted by SBOE member Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso.

11:19 – It appears board members are moving toward an adoption of all of the textbooks, although publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has withdrawn its government textbook from consideration. A statement from the publisher says the reason for the withdrawal is that the textbook didn’t meet all of the state’s curriculum standards. Board members are now debating also whether to remove products from WorldView Software from the adoption list. On Thursday WorldView submitted hundreds of pages of revisions and responses to public complaints about its textbooks.

11:35 – The board has taken a break and will return to their debate shortly.

12:06 – SBOE David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, is crediting Mel and Norma Gabler for making textbook adoptions a big deal. He’s serious, of course. But let’s be clear: the Gablers were notorious textbook censors who pressured publishers to revise and delete information — on topics like evolution, environmental problems, slavery and civil rights — that they didn’t like and didn’t want students to learn about.

12:25 – SBOE Republicans have voted down a recommendation by their Democratic colleagues to delay final adoption of the textbooks until Dec. 1 so that late changes by publishers can be vetted for accuracy.

12:26 – And now the board has voted to adopt, on a 10-5 party-line vote, all of the social studies textbooks except submissions from WorldView Software and a Grade 6 world cultures textbook for Discovery Education. They will consider those separately.

12:28 – The board has voted to reject the WorldView products for adoption.

12:30 – Some Republican board members appear to oppose adoption of the Discovery Education world cultures for Grade 6. SBOE member Tincy Miller, R-Dallas, claims that a passage about 9/11 has errors regarding the use of the term jihad. Other board members, including some Republicans, are puzzled about what the problem is.

12:34 – The board votes 9-6 to adopt the Discovery Education text. It’s still unclear just what the objection was.

12:42 – We just sent out the following press statement:

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller had the following statement on today’s State Board of Education vote to adopt new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools.

“What we saw today shows very clearly that the process the State Board of Education uses to adopt textbooks is a sham,” Miller said. “This board adopted textbooks with numerous late changes that the public had little opportunity to review and comment on and that even board members themselves admitted they had not read. They can’t honestly say they know what’s in these textbooks, which could be in classrooms for a decade.”

Miller was critical of board Republicans for rejecting a common-sense proposal by their Democratic colleagues to delay adoption of the textbooks until Dec. 1 so that late changes could be vetted for accuracy.

The Texas Education Agency posted scores of pages of publisher comments and textbook revisions after the last public hearing on Tuesday. Miller said scholars did not have an opportunity to review and comment on the numerous changes publishers have submitted since the last public hearing on Tuesday. Some of those changes appeared to have been negotiated with state board members behind closed doors.

During a months-long process, publishers made a number of improvements to their textbooks. Those improvements included removing inaccurate information promoting climate change denialism; deleting offensive cartoons comparing beneficiaries of affirmative action to space aliens; making clearer that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War; and revising passages that had promoted unfair negative stereotypes of Muslims. Scholars and the general public had ample opportunity to review and comment on those revisions.

However, the new textbooks also include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament. Scholars from across the country have said such claims are inaccurate and mislead students about the historical record.

9 thoughts on “Live-Blogging the Texas Social Studies Textbook Vote

  1. As usual, the SBOE will convene, talk among themselves, claim to get directions from on high in the spirit world and totally ignore the students and parents who should be in the loop, as well as the book publishers. Republitards want to keep a dim-witted electorate to enure their continued rule in Texas, and by default hopefully the entire nation by dumbing-down the textbooks to keep students and others Duck Dynasty Dumb.

  2. As usual, SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill has screwed up the instructional materials adoption process even more than it was originally. It was flawed to begin with. First, the curriculum standards adopted years ago were overly detailed, too complex, and filled with absurdly politically and religiously biased requirements. Second, incompetent religious fundamentalist and politicized far-right agitators were selectively placed on the instructional materials review panels while competent social studies scholars and curriculum experts were omitted. Third, the extreme radical religious right-wing Republicans on the SBOE have been working overtime to make sure their Christian Nationalist, American Exceptionalist, Religious Fundamentalist, False Historical Revisionism agenda items are preserved in the materials. Fourth, we are now experiencing the flood of documents from the Religious Right, Social Studies teachers, and even the publishers who are identifying “factual errors” in the current materials. Members are trying to cut off this flood of documents without even knowing what is in them. More urgently, watchdog organizations and individuals and publishers don’t know what is in these documents. Thomas Ratliff is complaining that the public needs to know what these documents contain and he is 100% correct. Fifth, I infer that the social studies instructional materials contain now the biased and false items that the radical religious Republicans desire so they are trying to ram through the adoption as quickly as possible. One of the three large mainstream publishers just removed its U.S. History textbook from adoption. It probably doesn’t want to participate in this horrible process anymore and will seek to approach school districts in Texas separately, but I really don’t know what its motivation is.

    We need and deserve that legitimate, scholarly, and educated social studies curriculum experts review these materials and have the power to reject the false agenda-driven items. This is what happens in other states, such as California. The process is so broken and obscene that all Texans should be ashamed. Texas is a national disgrace in how it administers its public education policy and processes. Barbara Cargill and Ken Mercer keep saying that our process is working well but that’s nonsense. As the TFN tweet says, Cargill implied that she reviewed the hundreds of new pages last night while her Democratic questioner didn’t. That is so shameful but Cargill’s every action is shameful. She works constantly behind the scenes to get her false history and extreme politics and religious beliefs incorporated into social studies materials. She has to be one of the worst Texas public officials and should receive the contempt of the entire national public education community.

    The Democrats are correctly pointing out that the process is flawed. Indeed it is, and it was flawed and biased from the beginning. The odious and reprehensible political manipulating of public school instructional materials used to be conducted behind closed doors by the SBOE chairman and the TEA Commissioner of Education. The only “improvement” now is that it is being conducted in full view of the public and all Texas citizens should be ashamed of what they are witnessing.

    Thomas Ratliff is now saying that the process is flawed but it’s the only process we have. He says improvements can be made. All true, but it didn’t have to be this way. That’s the point. Only Texas goes through this political, religious, and ideological process that tries to adopt textbooks that match the sick extreme beliefs of Tea Party Republicans. The majority members feel they have the right to politicize the process and public school instructional materials because they were elected by Texas citizens. But they don’t. Rather, they have an obligation to society, to fair play, and to historical truth that they are abrogating. I claim the entire standards and instructional materials adoption process in Texas as conducted by the Texas SBOE is unethical and detrimental to high-quality public education.

    1. Steve.

      1) “She works constantly behind the scenes to get her false history and extreme politics and religious beliefs incorporated into social studies materials. She has to be one of the worst Texas public officials and should receive the contempt of the entire national public education community.”

      Comment: Yes Steve. But the thing you have to remember above all else is that she is not doing this work for the school children of Texas, their parents, or the teachers. She’s doing it all for JAYZUS—whoever that is. It might be one of those green dwarfs on the dark side of the moon that knits my underwear. If she were doing it for Jesus, I would hope that the process would be carried out in an open, honest, and nondeceitful way that Jesus could be proud of. From all I am reading here at TFN, I am not seeing anything like that kind of openness and honesty.

      2) “Only Texas goes through this political, religious, and ideological process that tries to adopt textbooks that match the sick extreme beliefs of Tea Party Republicans.”

      Comment: The funny part is that they would say that their process is what make Texas stand out head and shoulders above the other states and that it should be a model for them to follow. Tennessee education officials, in so many words, have told me that they think the Texas SBOE is just plain nuts. The Texas SBOE is not a model for anything. It is an embarrassment to Texas, and some responsible Republican person in Texas state government should lead an effort to dissolve it and replace it with something that will not make Texas the laughing stock of the United States and the rest pf Planet Earth.

      Nuff said.

  3. I haven’t read Dan’s above post—but something tells me it’s going to be rich in strange and odd stuff. Back later.

    1. Right now, vote the Republicans out of office. For the Social Studies instructional materials, the battle has been fought over the last three years, is over now, and the next opportunity will be in ten years. So keep informed.