Reposted from YALSA blog, Friday, March 19th, 2010:
If you haven’t heard yet, the Texas Board of Education has approved a social studies curriculum that demonstrates a clear bias toward politically conservative ideology. (Washington Post, NYT) In the words of one Board member: “I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say, evolution is hooey.” and, “The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan — he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.” (Interview on AlterNet)
Texas teachers constructed a curriculum, but Republican board members have peppered it with amendments including:
- Rejection of the separation of church and state
- Emphasis on the “conservative resurgence” of the 1980s and ‘90s
- Giving the Black Panthers equal coverage along with Martin Luther King, Jr. in chapters on civil rights
- Replacing the word “capitalism” in economics textbooks with “free-enterprise system”
- Consistently rejecting requests to include positive Latino role models
- De-emphasis of Thomas Jefferson’s role in the formation of the country
This is troubling for Texas, to be sure, but the other 49 states can breathe a sigh of relief, right? At least that guy’s not choosing textbooks for MY state!
For decades, the Texas Board of Ed has had de facto veto power over textbook publishing in this country. I first read about it in the mid-90s, in James Loewen’s remarkable book Lies My Teacher Told Me. Because the entire state holds to a single curriculum, whatever materials they select will automatically be purchased by every school. That means that publishers would be foolish not to tailor their titles to the needs of this second-largest market. The options available to schools in other states are curtailed because Texas wields such enormous power. In other years, California (the #1 market) has had a mitigating effect, but this year cash-strapped CA is holding off on buying new materials.
This might be a good time to find out how textbooks are selected in your state, and what you can do to influence those choices in your community.
YALSA Intellectual Freedom Interest Group