Textbook Bills Open Door to Censorship By SBOE

Textbook Bills Open Door to Censorship By SBOE

House Committee to Hear Bill Testimony on Tuesday (April 26)
April 25, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAUSTIN A lawmaker’s comments reported this weekend reveal that the true purpose of legislation before a House committee this week is to permit State Board of Education members to edit textbooks for political and personal reasons, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.

“The agenda behind these bills is out in the open for all to see now,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “State board members should not be allowed to change textbook content based on their personal beliefs. Otherwise, the ‘facts’ our children learn will simply change with whatever majority controls the board.”

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram article on Saturday noted concerns that the bills would permit the SBOE to require any textbook changes a majority demands, such as removing discussions of evolution from biology textbooks. A sponsor of one bill, Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, acknowledged that his clear intent is to allow personal beliefs to influence textbook content.

“I don’t believe in evolution I believe in creation,” Rep. Howard told the Star-Telegram. “Some of our books right now only teach evolution, [but] if you’re going to teach one, you ought to teach both.”

The House Public Education Committee will hear testimony on two textbook bills on Tuesday (April 26): H.B. 220 by Rep. Howard and H.B. 2534 by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa. Those bills and H.B. 973 by Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, would allow state board members to change textbook content for a number of reasons, such as correcting “errors of omission or commission” and “viewpoint discrimination.”

The Legislature voted in 1995 to limit board authority over textbook content. That vote came one year after the SBOE demanded that publishers make more than 1,100 changes to new health textbooks. Legally, the board may today review textbooks to ensure only that the books conform to state curriculum standards, are free of factual errors and meet manufacturing requirements.

Even so, the SBOE has often ignored the law. In 2001 the SBOE rejected the only proposed advanced placement environmental science textbook, criticizing it as “anti-Christian” and “anti-Western.” Board members tried unsuccessfully in 2003 to water down the discussion of evolution in biology textbooks by including information about a religious concept known as “intelligent design.” The board has also targeted social studies, health and other textbooks for censorship.

“The State Board of Education has often demonstrated that, given the opportunity, it will edit and reject textbooks based on the personal beliefs of the majority,” Miller said. “Yet these bills lift any legal limits that protect our schoolchildren from censorship.”