Politics, Curriculum and Textbooks

The religious right doesn’t just target science and social studies when it comes to politicizing public school classrooms. The movement’s pressure groups attack education on a broad front, pushing a divisive agenda throughout the public school curriculum — including even reading and English classes. Educational Research Analysts, the old right-wing warhorse of the textbooks “culture wars” in Texas, makes that clear on its website.

ERA, founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler in East Texas, lists on its website the criteria by which it judges the quality of reading textbooks. The heavy emphasis on phonics is predictable. But so are the requirements ERA establishes for content in reading programs. Among the group’s demands:

Equal stress on Europe’s literary, religious, and cultural heritage compared to other regions

Diverse views on current controversial issues, when raised (e.g., “global warming,” feminism, evolution)

No sensational violence, offensive language or illustrations, occultism, or deviant lifestyles (e.g., homosexuality)

No politically-correct stereotypes of oppressors and/or victims by race, class, creed, or gender

Those demands are typically translated to mean: textbooks should be Euro- and Christian-centric; reading passages that touch on hot-button issues such as evolution should include even fringe views on the right that have been widely discredited; gay and lesbian writers are objectionable, as are other writers and selections that don’t pass a conservative litmus test; and passages involving slavery, discrimination and the civil rights era should be white-washed. Those demands really define “political correctness” on the right today.

Such demands also help explain why the development of curriculum standards for reading and language arts classes in Texas three years ago turned into a bitter battle between educators and far-right members of the heavily politicized and deeply dysfunctional State Board of Education. Past adoptions of language arts textbooks have also been controversial, with far-right board members and pressure groups attacking textbooks that included writers and content they considered offensive for political or religious reasons.

Yet the adoption of language arts textbooks by the Texas state board last year and last month were relatively smooth affairs. That is partly a reflection of how publishers have succeeded in sanitizing their textbooks by avoiding the inclusion of anything the far right sees as controversial. Publishers also did that in 2004, submitting new health textbooks that didn’t include a shred of medically accurate information about condoms and other forms of responsible pregnancy and disease prevention.

All of that is why the Texas Freedom Network is wary about the state board’s planned adoption of classroom materials for science classes this coming spring. We’ll be ready. You can help by signing on to our Just Educate campaign to reform the State Board of Education and keep politics out of our children’s classrooms.

3 thoughts on “Politics, Curriculum and Textbooks

  1. In a related note, the fruitcake-ready Louisiana Family Forum lost its second textbook battle of the week this afternoon. A quorum of the board voted to adopt science textbooks that teach—what else–real science. The only person voting against the textbooks was their chairman (Monsieur Bayard), who I suppose is the local equivalent of Don McLeroy.

    Just in case you might not know, the Louisiana Family Forum was started by Darrell White, a retired Louisiana judge. Some Christian fundamentalists (e.g., the Southern Baptists) just play at being fundamentalists. From some biographical information I have read on the web, Judge White is a pure Christian fundamentalist in the old school sense. You can always tell these guys because they use the pure fundamentalist code words in their communications, such as “right doctrine.” The term “right doctrine” means the speaker is right and whoever else disagrees with the speaker is automatically wrong. That does not just include people who are live on this Earth now. It means everyone who has lived, everyone who ever will live, all the inhabitants of other planets throughout the universe, and the entire populations of all parallel dimensions.

    How could an organization that is s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o right lose such an important battle and lose it s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o–o-o-o-o-o–o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o badly. After all, when you are that right, it just natural follows that Jesus will intervene on your side and create a rousing victory. Then again, maybe Jesus is not on their side. He said that He is the way, the truth, and the light. Maybe the untruth of creation science and intelligent design—and the deceptive ways their practitioners operate is of some real concern to Jesus.

    Jesus—yes. Lying textbooks—no.

  2. Charles, from what you say, Judge White appears to be a zealot. psychologically, he cannot alter one iota of his worldview, or it’d shatter. there is no flexibility and no room for adaptation or growth in his mind. everything is black and white, as far as he’s concerned; and that concerns me, if he’s a judge.

    as with other zealots, he could cause much damage. even if he were to be ‘converted’ to a more reasonable viewpoint, from what i’ve seen or read he would be just as zealous under his new viewpoint, and cause just as much damage. from my limited understanding, for a zealot to change is only to change the focus, not the behavior itself.