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California Tells Texas Not to Mess with Textbooks

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Bethany Sanders: "Don't mess with Texas," the saying goes -- but California has a different message for the Lone Star State: "Don't mess with history!"

Textbook barbed wire

That's after the conservative Texas School Board proposed changes to its social studies curriculum that some say not only have a strong conservative bent, but are also historically inaccurate and ignore the contributions of African-Americans and Hispanics. Here are some of the proposed changes, which will be voted on this week:

  • The slave trade will be renamed the "Atlantic triangular trade."
  • Thomas Jefferson will take a backseat (thanks to his efforts to separate church and state) and an emphasis will be placed on the Founding Fathers' guiding Christian values.
  • Sen. Joseph McCarthy -- who used Communism charges to attack American citizens --will be painted in a more positive light.
  • Conservative groups and ideas --such as the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association -- will be promoted as part of a celebration of the conservative resurgence of the '80s and '90s. (The Texas School Board says this addition was created in order to balance out leftist political ideas such as the New Deal.)
  • Students will be taught the "unintended consequences" of affirmative action and Title IX.

The vote in Texas is important, because those curriculum changes could affect textbooks across the nation. Traditionally, the states that buy the most textbooks hold sway over publishers and the content that makes it into the textbooks. But according to Jay Diskey, executive director of the schools division of the Association of American Publishers, that's no longer the case. "It's an urban myth, especially in this digital age we live in, that content can be tailored and customized for individual states and school districts," he told MercuryNews.com.

Even so, California isn't taking any chances. Calling the Texas Board's curriculum changes "a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings," a new California bill (SB1451) would require that reviews of public school textbooks include looking out for the Texas changes and reporting them to the Legislature and the Secretary of Education.

It seems simple enough: Social studies should just be about the facts -- a balanced reporting on the forces that have shaped our country. But as we've seen in the fight between evolution and creationism, even biology class somehow ends up in the political arena.

As a parent, are you concerned that politics could play a heavy hand in your child's history education?


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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Cheryl May 21, 2010, 3:58 AM

It is sad that some in our country are willing to stoop to creating propaganda to foster patriotism. Our children do not learn enough history as it is without watering it down.

Al May 21, 2010, 8:49 AM

Obviously, parents can have a say in this issue. If this passes, parents will have to discuss the history with their children and teach them to question and research it. The unfortunate part about this is that many parents don’t question anything and just accept the status quo (otherwise, there would be an uproar in TX). Showdowns are coming between people and their thoughts/views/opinions/values that are going to affect our children for generations to come. We as parents must become VERY informed and be willing to act to stop this kind of ignorant and whitewashed propaganda. The U.S. was built upon the unjust mistreatment and deaths of many people of various backgrounds. Our children need to know that it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

Sarah May 24, 2010, 2:39 PM

This seriously reads like an article from The Onion. I guess Texas is trying to overtake Kansas as the most educationally ridiculed state.

Laughing Out Loud June 20, 2010, 12:45 PM

Sounds like you guys need to go back and read your history. Oh that’s right. You were taught the public school history weren’t you? Got stupid much? LOL

Robyn August 8, 2010, 1:45 PM

Sarah, this is true. I live in Texas and I have joined the (what feels like the few) fighting for this overhaul of the textbooks not to take place! This is a serious problem and its about to hit our schools nationwide…


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