For anyone wondering if Texas public schools’ history textbooks could be any more controversial, the answer is yes — and they just might be for the next decade. This November, members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) will vote on new textbooks for Texas public schools that promise to teach children a distorted image of history and discourage critical analysis of American government.
The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a nonprofit watchdog group formed to protect religious freedom, defend civil liberties and strengthen public schools, published a report that found major flaws in the textbook content. The TFN Education Fund asked 10 scholars to review the proposed texts for historical inaccuracies.
While many of the texts were factually accurate, most exaggerated events or left out crucial information, which could greatly alter a student’s understanding.
Textual bias includes, but is not limited to, an inaccurate portrayal of Muslims as violent, an implied significance of the Ten Commandments in the American constitution and a downplay of racial segregation.
The proposed textbooks also leave out accounts of Native American suffering and promote the work of missionaries working to convert the New World. Of course, the fact that many of these natives were forcefully converted and forced to lose their culture receives no mention.
How could such biased textbooks be considered in the first place?
The proposed textbooks must meet regulations established by the SBOE. Publishers must choose between comprehensive historical accounts and meeting strict SBOE standards.
Dr. David Brockman from Southern Methodist University was on the TFN panel to review the proposed texts. “The option was to give the SBOE what it wants to hear, instead of sticking to what is historically sound,” he said in a TFN press release. “Sadly, some publishers have done the former in certain instances.”
With publishers looking at million-dollar contracts with the state of Texas, it’s easy to understand why they might be willing to forgo accuracy in the name of profit. Pearson, a publishing company with offices based in San Antonio, provides educational materials to Texas public schools, including UTSA. Students might recognize the name from the cover of their overpriced graduate school test study books as well as their online MyLab programs.
A report by the State Auditor’s Office in 2013 revealed that Pearson’s contract with the state of Texas totaled $462 million.
Other publishers whose content was found to be controversial included Discover Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill School Education, Social Studies School Service, WorldView Software, Edmentum and Cengage Learning.
These textbook publishers, however, aren’t solely to blame. The strict guidelines established by the SBOE seem to be politically motivated, rather than concerned with historical accuracy.
Of the 140 members appointed to SBOE panels, only three are current faculty members at a Texas college or university. Many educators from institutions such as Southern Methodist University and UT Austin applied but were rejected.
One person appointed to the board was Mark Keough, a retired car salesman with a degree in theology who runs a ministry in the same district as Chair of the SBOE Barbara Cargill.
If these proposed textbooks are approved for publication this fall, they could be in classrooms for the next decade. That means a decade of misinformed children with an inaccurate understanding of this nation’s history.
When did Texas schools become so unreliable? Public school systems seem more concerned with indoctrination than critical thinking.
After all, if your education doesn’t change you, then it has failed you.
In our society, where profits seem to be the driving motivational factor, we’ve lost the integrity that comes with shaping young, impressionable minds.
With a highly politicized SBOE that seems likely to approve this round of textbooks, reformation seems impossible.
The best thing concerned Texas citizens can do is actively participate in the system that elects those in charge of children’s future. As one of the states with the lowest voter turnout, Texas needs to step it up this election cycle and tell the Legislature that this is one state that can’t be messed with.