State Board of Education Embarrasses Texas Again

Some of you might have seen over the weekend a Facebook post — now gone viral — from a Houston mom who was shocked to see the Atlantic slave trade portrayed as a “migration” of “workers” from Africa in a new high school geography textbook. That textbook is one of scores of social studies textbooks adopted by the Texas State Board of Education last fall. The textbooks went into classrooms at the beginning of the current school year.

Over the weekend publisher McGraw-Hill acknowledged that the textbook passage about the African slave trade passage was misleading and said it would immediately move to correct it. Various news outlets have been reporting about this newest controversy involving Texas textbooks — another black eye for Texas.

We just sent out the following press release:

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller responded today to reports about how a new high school geography textbook mischaracterizes the slave trade as simply a migration of workers in American history:

“First of all, we are encouraged that the publisher is correcting this passage downplaying the history of slavery in the United States. But it’s no accident that this happened in Texas. We have a textbook adoption process that’s so politicized and so flawed that it’s become almost a punch line for comedians. The truth is that too many elected officials who oversee that process are less interested in accurate, fact-based textbooks than they are in promoting their own political views in our kids’ classrooms. So when they review these textbooks, they don’t even recognize distortions that mislead students and that drive scholars nuts.”

Miller’s comments come after publisher McGraw-Hill Education said that it will revise a passage in its new geography textbook that discusses migration in American history. The problematic passage refers to African slaves brought to North America between the 1500s and 1800s simply as “workers.” In fact, they were abducted and brought forcibly to the Americas as slaves.

How We Got Here
The new Texas textbooks are based on very controversial curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010. Even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in a 2011 report, criticized those standards as a “politicized distortion of history.” The report noted that the standards downplay difficult topics like slavery and segregation while dismissing the history of separation of church and state and wildly exaggerating – even inventing – Biblical influences on the American founding.

Publishers submitted their new geography and other social studies textbooks based on those standards in 2014. University scholars the Texas Freedom Network worked with last year found that the history textbooks actually do a much better job handling the issue of slavery than the curriculum standards do. But even discussions of that topic get muddied at times.

Even more problematic, however, are textbook passages that suggest Moses and the Old Testament were major influences in the writing of the U.S. Constitution and on democratic political and legal traditions. Members of the State Board of Education had insisted, over the strenuous objections of constitutional scholars and historians, that such contentions be included in the curriculum standards and, subsequently, the new textbooks.

Those new textbooks went into Texas classrooms this fall. Because of the size of the textbook market here, publishers historically have written their textbooks to conform to the Texas curriculum standards and then sold those textbooks – revised as little as possible – in other states around the country.

Link to Fordham’s 2011 report on the curriculum standards:

The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots public education watchdog based in Austin.

14 thoughts on “State Board of Education Embarrasses Texas Again

  1. I can see the new chair person of the Texas SBOE saying:

    “The American people just have to understand that the people of Texas, in their righteous will as citizens of the great Lone Star State, have chosen to have elected politicians as the members of the SBOE so the will of the majority of Texas citizens and their beliefs and values will be incorporated into the education of their children.”

    I think what most of the American people are saying is:

    “Frankly, We do not give a damn. It is just plain WRONG to turn any state’s educational system into a highly controversial political football that has become the laughingstock of the nation and a big part of the world.”

    I live in Tennessee—and that is how I feel about it. Tennessee school teacher Sam Houston would have been ashamed of the moron who made the Texas SBOE into an elected body.

  2. There’s a quote from Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy” that has stuck with me.

    “I still have trouble believing there is such a thing as slavery.”
    He shrugged. “Ten lashes will convince anybody.”
    “Thor! You don’t mean they whipped you?”
    “I don’t remember clearly. But the scars are on my back.”

  3. Just when I thought that the backward SBOE had reached its maximum idioticy, this comes along.
    I am ashamed to be a Texan. If I could afford it I’d move to Oregon, one of the bluest states around.
    How the TEAliban (GOP)manages to take over the SBOE time after time is a wonder to me. It makes me physically ill to read some of the garbage they come up. They still do not realize that this is a SECULAR nation. Keep God OUT OF THE SCHOOLS!
    Nobody has the right to shove their mistaken theology down other’s throats.
    I am not a Christian. When I started school the Japanese had just formally signed the peace accord with us.
    But I was FORCED to say the “Lord’s prayer.” That so-called prayer is NOT what Jesus was saying, he gave them the outline of how to pray. But back then there was NO FREEDOM OF RELIGION.
    My Hebrew books that I took to Hebrew school after secular school was torn up, flushed down a toilet, burned, and had feces smeared between the pages. They were blaming Jews for their parents dying in WWII. They supposedly were dying ONLY to free the Jews.
    That was BS then and it is still BS.
    All of my uncles fought, some in the Navy others in the Army. And what did they do? They were cursed, spit on, beaten up just for the crime of being a Jew.
    Now the jackasses want to say that the slaves were brought her as “workers?” Workers get paid, the slaves were not paid a cent.
    I was raised in New England where I was told to call “colored people” sir and ma’am. Many who had come from the south were astonished when we showed them the courtesy they deserved. Many in New England were jerks, but I’ve never forgotten the lessons my parents taught me.
    I got transferred to Texas with a company I worked for. Governor Brisco was the governor back then and Texas was blue. Now it might as well be run by the morons that make me ashamed to be here.
    Our governor was told by ENTOMOLOGISTS that mental health didn’t exist, so he refused to sign a bill that would have given more money for funding mental health facilities and research.
    The TEAliban (GOP) want to make us all slaves to their moronic ideas. We MUST RECALL Abbott. I don’t know how to do it, but I hope SOMEONE will star the campaign to throw the idiot OUT. I’ll work hard to accomplish that decent goal.
    The SBOE also needs to be tossed into a garbage pit where they belong. Then people wonder why I’m so damned angered all the time.

    1. If what Beverly writes is true, she is proof of why there is a severe need for more funding for mental health facilities and research. The least they could do would be remove her ankle bracelet and allow her to return to one of the blue states. I would suggest San Francisco or one of the other sanctuary cities in California.

      1. Those that lack the facts and logic to present a rational argument often resort to ad hominem attacks.

  4. For some reason or another I had said that Scientologists said that mental illness is not real. My spell checker changed it to Entomologists said that. I should have double checked what I sent.
    It does not change the fact that Abbott is accepting Cults to tell him what is and what isn’t. IMPEACH the idiot, now.

  5. It is true that the textbook publisher should have referred to the forced migration of West African blacks to America as a trade of indentured slaves instead of “workers”. However, it is interesting that Coby, then his mother , made a mockery of the word, “worker”.
    One reason this struggling new nation became great is not because of the black “slaves” who sat around complaining about their life (or lack thereof), or politically incorrect textbooks, or the police who patrolled the streets and roads. America became great because of the black WORKERS.
    Some blacks in America today have the good sense to realize WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN, and many of these credit their presence here today as divine providence. What if their forefathers had been left in Africa centuries ago? Quite likely today’s descendants would still be living there in third-world poverty, in huts with open sewerage, disease and hunger.
    If they had been taken to Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist countries, what would be their lifestyle today, and what gods would they be serving and worshiping today? If they had been taken into communist countries, what would be their atheist lifestyle with very limited freedom and opportunity? If they had been taken into Fascist or Nazi countries, they would likely have been executed eighty years ago.
    Although most sensible Americans deplore the means by which blacks were brought here and how they were treated for centuries, there are multiple thousands of black citizens who, like Ben Carson and Herman Cain, have moved past the hatred and contempt. Unfortunately, there are many others, such as “Black Lives Matter”, the NAACP, and other liberal Democrat organizations who patronize black teens and their parents merely to enhance their own status as social activists. Then there are the others who quickly take advantage of any opportunity to criticize the Texas SBOE and any other Christian influenced entity.
    Black kids need to realize that they have the opportunity to be great and to make America even greater because of the sacrifice and suffering and WORK of their forefathers. They have the opportunity to become teachers, engineers, star athletes, famous neurosurgeons or even President of the U.S. But they can’t have a great life if their attitude toward life and the world is rotten.
    So just get over it, Coby!!! If you want to BE great and DO great things; if you want to utilize the opportunities for which you forefathers suffered and sacrificed, then pull up your pants and GET TO WORK!!!!!

    1. What they objected to was that history was being ‘erased’ by the textbook authors. They were brought here, those that survived, in slave ships under deplorable/deadly conditions. Then kept in slavery for generations. They did not MIGRATE! That is misrepresentation to the point of lying about historical fact. The student & his mother, and all those interested in an accurate study of history are appalled. No one, not blacks alone, should ever forget how much of America was built on the backs of suffering humanity.

    2. This entire screed is an attempt to excuse the twisted standards created by the SBOE. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that the tenor of those standards led the publisher to attempt to soften the history of slavery in this country?

      Jim Kennedy wrote: ‘trade of indentured slaves instead of “workers”.’
      A search of the internet returned a description of an “indentured servant” as a person that served the owner of the indentured contract for a set number of years (not for life). The search did not return any instance of “indentured slave” (an oxymoron – slaves were property without hope of freedom).

      Gee, why would black slaves complain about their existence? They received subsistence meals and shelter in exchange for being forced to work (spurred on by beatings), being maimed or murdered for attempting to escape (gain their freedom), treated like livestock which were bred to produce more slaves to be sold (ripping families apart, wives from husbands, children from parents).

      There can be no excusing the inhumane treatment of slaves in this country. It is important to remember history as it happened without trying to hide the ugly passages or soften them. As for the descendants of slaves being better off in this country than in Africa, that is mere speculation for any particular person and does not justify the past inhumanity.

      1. I spent more than twenty years working day and night with these inner-city kids and I can assure you the every one of them has a detailed knowledge of what and when and how slavery was. They have been told by their great grandparents, and their grandparents, and their aunts and uncles and cousins, and their neighbors, and their preachers, and their mothers’ live-in boy friends, and community organizers, and Democrat politicians (except they don’t dare mention how the Democrats participated in the slave trade).
        The last thing these kids need is is for a literary mistake to be blown out of proportion with a big publicity push that enhances their attitude of hatred and contempt toward America and the white race in general. TFN, Kathy and Ed, as well as the Houston Chronicle and New York Times are operating with the same motivation and the same guilt as the slave dealers and owners of previous centuries. The Chronicle and Times will print anything to sell papers and TFN will do almost anything to drive their rage against the SBOE. You couldn’t care less about the hearts and minds and attitudes with which these kids struggle every day.
        Why not go ahead and suggest that they quit the schools where it is demanded that they study these erroneous texts, quit trying to gain an education and quit trying to make something of themselves. Why not just join neighborhood gangs, rob stores, riot and kill the police officers who are trying to protect their neighborhoods.
        But why mess with the amateur gangs when they can now sign up with the professionals–ISIS!! Just get on the internet and look, there is probably a new cell being formed in their neighborhood now. This will give them huge notoriety, sell a lot of newspapers, and completely obliterate the Texas SBOE!!!!
        Goodbye, law and order!! Goodbye, peace and progress and prosperity!! Goodbye, homes and families and schools and SBOE!!! Goodbye, freedom and opportunity!! Goodbye, Stars and Stripes!!
        Goodbye, America!!!!!

        1. Your paranoia and hysteria know no bounds, Jim. The kind of hatred you promote — open and proud — helps keep us going here. But while you feed your contempt for TFN and the news media, keep in mind that conservatives have also sharply criticized the SBOE’s right-wingers for politicizing our kids’ classrooms. Too many SBOE members insist on promoting a divisive and deceitful political agenda — and we’ll keep fighting back against it. If you really care about “homes and families” and “freedom and opportunity,” then you’ll join us. But we aren’t holding our breath.

        2. Jim Kennedy wrote: “for a literary mistake to be blown out of proportion “

          Literary mistake? Not likely. Most likely a deliberate attempt to soften (distort) the description of slavery to appease the extreme right wing of the SBOE which created a twisted set of standards that resulted in the nonsense in the geography book.

          Texas’s social studies standards are more politicized than any other state, said Jeremy A. Stern, a historian who reviewed state standards for the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2011. He gave Texas’s standards a D and wrote that the board was “molding the telling of the past to justify its current views.”

          Texas combines a rigidly thematic and theory-based social studies structure with a politicized distortion of history. The result is both unwieldy and troubling, avoiding clear historical explanation while offering misrepresentations at every turn.