A very interesting development in Texas, where the State Board of Education has voted unanimously to change the textbook selection process to make it less likely that the Christian right will be able to rig the process in their favor. And at least one board member voted for it despite knowing that would result.
The Texas Board of Education imposed tighter rules Friday on the citizen review panels that scrutinize proposed textbooks, potentially softening fights over evolution, religion’s role in U.S. history and other ideological matters that have long seeped into what students learn in school…
The 15-member education board approves textbooks for school districts to use, but objections raised by reviewers can influence its decisions. The volunteer review panels are often dominated by social conservatives who want more skepticism about evolution included in science textbooks, arguing that a higher power helped create the universe.
The board also had long been controlled by social conservatives before election defeats weakened their voting bloc in recent years — but not it drew national headlines. Those members pushed for deemphasizing climate change in science classes, and in social studies classes requiring students learn about the Christian values of America’s founding fathers and evaluate whether the United Nations undermined U.S. sovereignty.
Among the changes approved Friday was a mandate that teachers or professors be given priority for serving on the textbook review panels for subjects in their areas of expertise. They also enable the board to appoint outside experts to check objections raised by review panels and ensure they are based on fact, not ideology.
“It won’t eliminate politics, but it will make it where it’s a more informed process,” said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican board member who pushed for the changes, which he said “force us to find qualified people, leave them alone, and let them do their jobs.”
The new rules were unanimously approved.
An outspoken conservative on the board, David Bradley, said he did his best to insert language mitigating what was approved. But he said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”
“Certainly there are some members that were unhappy with some of the experts that we’ve had in the past and certain reviewers,” said Bradley, a Republican from Beaumont.
“Maybe it’s embarrassing when citizens step forth and show some of the blatant inaccuracies in our American history, references to our founding fathers, our Christian heritage, truly errors. But to try and silence them with intimidation I think is wrong and that’s what this is all about,” he said.
More likely it’s embarrassing when deluded ideologues step forth and invent inaccuracies because they don’t fit with their warped ideas about history. My friends at the Texas Freedom Network call this a “a modest but necessary step toward ensuring that decisions about textbook adoptions for Texas public schools are based on facts and sound scholarship, not politics.”