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

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