The Texas State Board of Education approved several dozen social studies textbooks after a contentious battle over their treatment of subjects including climate change, the role of slavery in the Civil War, Islam, and biblical influence in America’s founding. One major publisher, however, withdrew a book from consideration, saying that it was unable to meet all the standards set by the school board.
The Texas Freedom Network, which live-blogged today’s vote, said that much problematic material had been removed from the proposed textbooks, including climate denial and “offensive cartoons comparing beneficiaries of affirmative action to space aliens,” but that references to Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy remained. But TFN notes that publishers posted a number of last-minute changes to the textbooks yesterday, leaving board members and observers without time to figure out exactly what was in the approved texts:
The Texas Education Agency posted scores of pages of publisher comments and textbook revisions after the last public hearing on Tuesday. Miller said scholars did not have an opportunity to review and comment on the numerous changes publishers have submitted since the last public hearing on Tuesday. Some of those changes appeared to have been negotiated with state board members behind closed doors.
During a months-long process, publishers made a number of improvements to their textbooks. Those improvements included removing inaccurate information promoting climate change denialism; deleting offensive cartoons comparing beneficiaries of affirmative action to space aliens; making clearer that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War; and revising passages that had promoted unfair negative stereotypes of Muslims. Scholars and the general public had ample opportunity to review and comment on those revisions.
However, the new textbooks also include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament. Scholars from across the country have said such claims are inaccurate and mislead students about the historical record.
The textbooks were approved despite a last-minute attempt by Truth in Texas Textbooks, a group with ties to the anti-Muslim organization ACT! for America, to remove accurate information about Islam, reduce coverage of civil rights (which it found to promote unsavory “racial politics”), and insert information about Young Earth Creationism sourced to the conservative website Conservapedia. [TFN’s summary of Truth In Texas Textbooks’ complains is in this pdf.]
The Texas Tribune adds that the group’s last-minute request also included downplaying the environmental impact of coal mining and noting in a chapter about colonization that Native Americans already discriminated against and oppressed each other:
The Truth in Texas Textbooks Coalition, all but unheard from for months while new social studies textbooks and instructional materials were being vetted, submitted a 469-page report in late October identifying more than 1,500 “factual errors, omission of facts, half-truths and agenda biases” in proposed materials.
Among its objections: A passage on coal mining should say it has “minimal effect on the environment”; a chapter on Spanish colonization of Latin America should point out the “continuous discrimination and oppression practiced by the native American peoples on each other”; and a statement that Shariah law requires religious tolerance of non-Muslims should be removed.
The group was formed by retired Lt. Col. Roy White, a Tea Party activist who also leads the Bexar County Chapter of ACT! for America, an organization dedicated to fighting extremist Islam. Its founder, Brigitte Gabriel, is known for her views that Muslims in the United States pose a danger to national security.
TFN tells us that it appears that Truth in Texas Textbooks did not succeed in getting any “substantive changes” into the books.