Culture War Turns to Texas TextbooksMay 19, 2010 - 12:18 AM | by: William La Jeunesse
What do liberal lawmakers in California share with their conservative counterparts in Texas? Very little. But this week both are watching the 15 member Texas State Board of Education, which will choose the next generation of history textbooks for most American children.
The left-right culture war will play out over the choice of words, photos, who to honor and what events in American and world history should receive a few lines of text. It may sound innocent, when it is anything but.
Years of research, months of editing, hundreds of hours of debate will be boiled down into a single document – a statement of curricula – that will define the parameters followed by virtually every social studies textbook and test for students from kindergarten to through 8th grade for the next decade.
The battle lines are drawn. On one side are conservatives, who contend academia has been hijacked by liberals. A point supported by studies that show 90 percent of humanities teachers identify themselves as Democrats.
And nowhere is their bias more visible than the one-sided treatment of American history in U.S. textbooks, where words like ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ have been stricken, ‘Founding Fathers’ has been replaced by ‘Framers’ and ‘Founders’ and racial quota’s are applied to the number of photos used in any one book.
“ The liberal extreme groups aren’t interested in balance. They want the standards one-sided, that only fits them,” says Jonathan Saenz of the right leaning Liberty Institute. “The other side’s not interested in the truth. And the reality is, they have this mission of distortion and confusion because they have a political agenda. And they’re not really interested in the content. They’re interested in changing the political demographics.”
In the last two years the board, composed of 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats, has been led by 7 influential social conservatives. By the end of this week, the board will have finished rewriting curriculum standards for three key subject areas – English, science and now, social studies.
Liberals contend the board is out of touch and the block of social conservatives have manipulated the process to reflect teachings out of the mainstream.
“They have politicized the textbook process. And I think that our schoolchildren deserve better than politicizing it,” Terri Burke, Texas ACLU Executive Director . “We really believe this curriculum should be turned over to experts who know something about history, about education, about the learning levels of schoolchildren. We ought to have people who really know it being the ones who write it and vet it and tell us that this is what kiddos oughta learn.”
In California, a key state Senate Committee passed a bill Tuesday designed to prohibit any textbook approved in Texas to be used in the Golden State.
“While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes,” said Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. “The alterations and fallacies made by these extremist conservatives are offensive to our communities and inaccurate of our nation’s diverse history. Our kids should be provided an education based on facts and that embraces our multicultural nation.”
William La Jeunesse & Lindsay Stewart contributed to this report.