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Controversial Textbooks In Texas Classrooms

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By Angela Kaye Mason, Tex.Org Contributor

Bryan McLeroy and the Texas State School Board

Thanks to the Texas state school board, there could be very controversial changes coming to the textbooks in our Texas classrooms. It all started with a dentist by the name of Don McLeroy from Bryan, Texas, who apparently agrees with Winston Churchill’s sentiment, “History is written by the victors.” Some Liberalists and Conservatives alike, however, claim that it is apparently rewritten by the Texas state board of education, of which McLeroy is a very active member. He and the other fourteen members of the board have managed to push through many controversial revisions to the curriculum used to teach social studies, government, geography, and history to the children of Texas. McLeroy, who describes himself as a Christian fundamentalist, was said to have bragged, “Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have.”

Right or Left, Many Disagree With the Text Books

Liberals who stand out against McLeroy’s proposed new curriculum highly criticize the text books, claiming that they overstate the influence of religion on the democracy of early America. For example, the new books state that the story of Moses was a great influence on the Founding Fathers of our country. Conservatives have their own issues against the text books as well, due to them being too pro-Islam, and downplaying the effect that Christianity had on the history of the United States. The right also disagree with the fact that the books seem to downplay the achievements that President Ronald Reagan brought to the US. Some claim that the text books ignore the contribution that slavery made to the cause of the Civil War. Others maintain that the new curriculum promote communism. Still others feel that the students need to know that the United Nations shared misinformation about climate changes. The left feels the books lean too far right, the right feels that the books lean to far left. Both sides feel that the books simply stray too far from truth and push political agenda instead of teaching facts. There were over fifteen hundred reported complaints about the books.

Hundreds of Text Books May Not Stay in Texas

The Texas State Board of Education pushed for a batch of over one hundred new text books for social studies, government, geography, and history in the state. These books will become the backbone of studying for over five million students in the public school system of one of America’s most populated states. Many point out that this issue, while a Texas problem at the moment, will not stay in the state. Josh Rosenau is the programs and policy director for the National Center for Science Education, which is a non-profit group from California that has looked over a few of the text books in question. He pointed out that many books which are made for Texas are often marketed to other states due to the sheer size of Texas and its school system. “What happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. All of these books, once they get through the process in Texas, are going to show up in other states,” he explained. Texas purchases as many as forty-eight million text books annually, more than any other state besides California.

Other States Rejecting the Books

Although man are warning that these books will not stay in Texas, other states have already begun to reject the ideas put forth in them. California, for instance, has recently introduced a bill which will prevent the changes made in the Texas curriculum from being introduced to their state. Other states may soon follow. Kirk White, a social studies teacher from an Austin, Texas middle school feels that this is all unnecessary. He feels that the new standards will probably not destroy the integrity of the classrooms across Texas as many are implying. “Are there some things in there that don’t belong? Sure, but I hope teachers don’t buckle and interpret the language too narrowly,” White says. “If we have to talk more about our so-called ‘Christian nation’ in class, then let’s talk about it— the good and the bad. A good teacher will know how to take advantage of this situation.”

History of the Historic Books

The books which are creating this overwhelming controversy were first introduced written based on standards which were created by education officials in Texas several years ago. These standards, known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, could change the way kids learn, according to the scholars who have studied them. These scholars feel that there are areas of the controversial text books which are not only misleading, but racist, discriminatory, and even completely untrue. These books were last voted on in 2002. An education panel recreated the standards and they were approved by McLeroy’s State Board of Education in 2010, causing tons of controversy. Dan Quinn, of the Texas Freedom Network, feels that some publishers, such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson, print these books with misinformation in history and politics. Quinn’s non-profit group brought in scholars from all over the United States to review almost half of the books, the sum of which which had been submitted in April. According to Quinn, there were tons of examples of that misinformation, of which some have been corrected, and some have not.

Texas Abusing its Position?

While Conservative and Liberals may not agree on which sections of the books are the most controversial, both sides claim that these text books are misrepresenting history for political gain. Emile Lester, associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, recently wrote a review of some of the books. Emile states in his review, “ Texas is in a leadership position and at the moment, they are abusing that position.” He also added that the books, “ overemphasized the role the biblical figure Moses and Judeo-Christian traditions played in the formation of the nations’ founding documents such as the Constitution, while paying little attention to constitutional provisions on the separation of church and state.” (Reuters) Lester also claimed, “The controversy in Texas … hints at rising tensions across the U.S. over academic standards, as conservatives have mobilized aggressively to shape what students learn in science, social studies and beyond. The Texas textbooks, most of them from major publishing houses, were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 – with the explicit intention of tugging social studies teaching to the right.”

Textbooks Fail to Receive Needed Votes

On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, the Texas Board of Educatio failed to receive the needed number of votes to get the preliminary approval for the controversial text books. A final vote on Friday will give to board the chance to get these books to the students of Texas by 2015. Otherwise, the battle will continue.

Please contact Angela Kaye Mason angelakayemason@gmail.com if you have any questions.


Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/19/texas-textbooks-fails-approval_n_6185860.html

Rueters http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/19/us-usa-texas-textbooks-idUSKCN0J301520141119

Politico http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/texas-textbooks-criticism-110809.html

KDH News http://kdhnews.com/news/education/amid-criticism-texas-fails-to-approve-new-books/article_e07bee4e-6fac-11e4-9dd2-3b2c4972c858.html

Christian Science Monitor http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2014/0918/Liberals-and-conservatives-both-object-to-new-Texas-textbooks

NEA Today http://neatoday.org/2010/05/01/texas-educators-speak-out-against-new-social-studies-standards/

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