News Guide: Texas' latest history textbook tussle

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2014 7:31 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Board of Education is poised to vote Tuesday on more than 100 proposed social studies, history, geography and government textbooks that publishers have submitted for approval for use in classrooms statewide. Texas is such a large textbook market that it sometimes affects books used elsewhere. A look at the latest book battle:


Academics and activists on the right and left have complained about the proposed textbooks, saying some offer ideology over facts. One Texas university professor said some books so exaggerate Moses' influence on U.S. democracy that students will grow up believing the biblical figure "was the first American," while others complained of overpraising capitalism, sugarcoating historical racial segregation and unfairly portraying Muslims, American Indians and Hispanics. Complaints about many of the same books include that they give too much attention to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and downplay the role of radical Islam in modern terrorism.


The proposed textbooks adhere to Texas' academic curriculum set by the Republican-controlled Board of Education. In 2010, the board created history and social studies curriculums that emphasized conservative concepts, saying they countered inherent liberal classroom biases. The current controversy over the influence of Judeo-Christian values on America's Founding Fathers grew out of requirements that Moses and Mosaic Law be taught. Tuesday's approval of social studies and history textbooks is the first since 2002, and they are set to be used in classrooms for a decade beginning in September 2015.


At its September meeting, the board heard hours of complaints about the proposed textbooks. Many publishers have since made or promised to make edits, or provided justifications for why they will not. A division of publishing giant Pearson Education said it's willing to remove a cartoon in a high school American government textbook that featured space aliens hovering over earth with the caption, "Relax, we'll be fine — they've got affirmative action." The company also cut wording from a fifth-grade social studies book casting doubt on human activity contributing to climate change. But Pearson refused to modify its Contemporary World Cultures book stating that jihad means "the struggle to be a better person," even though some critics said it actually means holy war.


As America's second most populous state, Texas and its more than 5 million public school students represent such a large market that edits made for it sometimes influence what's published in textbooks around the country. About 20 states have education officials who approve books for classroom use according to their own curriculum standards, but others could get content originally written for Texas. A 2011 Texas law, however, allows school districts to buy textbooks with or without board approval, and more have begun taking advantage. Meanwhile, the use of iPads and e-readers makes it easier for publishers to tailor books to individual states' needs.