What’s more important when it comes to writing history textbooks: Succumbing to political pressure or accuracy?
If you said accuracy, then you’re not a member of the Texas State Board of Education.
Politico’s Stephanie Simon explains:
Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society.
Those passages are among dozens of biased, misleading or inaccurate lessons identified on Wednesday by a panel of scholars commissioned by a liberal advocacy group to analyze dozens of new history, geography and civics textbooks up for review by the state Board of Education.
The problem isn’t just the textbook publishers — it’s the fact that they have to write their textbooks in alignment with the state standards, which are created by politicians with agendas in the first place.
Among the problems:
A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.
Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete — and often inaccurate — account of religions other than Christianity.
One world history textbook includes outdated — and possibly offensive — anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilizations.
One government textbook (Pearson) includes a biased — verging on offensive — treatment of affirmative action.
Emile Lester, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, summarized his report this way: He called the texts a “triumph of ideology over ideas.”
The standards and the textbooks will combine to make Texas students’ “knowledge of American history a casualty of the culture wars,” Lester wrote.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering who these Board of Education textbook reviewers are, who have the job of selecting and approving books for students, they’re exactly who you think they are:
Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics — including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin — who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.
I don’t get how this is happening, especially since, earlier this year, the Board of Education voted to prevent precisely this problem:
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.”
Have fun re-taking all of your history classes in college, Texas high-schoolers.