Texas education board approves new social studies textbooks in partisan vote

Texas education board approves new social studies textbooks in partisan vote
State Board of Education members (from left) Martha Dominguez, Donna Bahorich, Lawrence Allen and Ruben Cortez looked toward colleagues on the board during a recess in Friday’s hearings on approving textbooks.

AUSTIN — State Board of Education members, voting along party lines, Friday gave final approval to a new generation of social studies textbooks and e-books that will reflect a more conservative view of U.S. history than books used for the past dozen years.

The 89 books on the list were adopted with all 10 Republicans voting yes and all five Democrats voting no.

Board member Mavis Knight of Dallas and other Democrats said they could not support the books because of the curriculum standards that publishers were required to meet, particularly for U.S. history.

Those standards were originally adopted four years ago over the objections of Democrats, who complained they highlighted conservative figures in history and were slanted toward a conservative point of view.

“I think it’s a disservice to students when we present them with textbooks that have such a particular bent. They need to see both sides of the issues so they can draw their own conclusions based on the best information we can give them,” Knight said.

“We have shortchanged our students,” she said, adding that she was not upset with publishers, who were following standards set by the board. One of those standards calls for coverage of leading conservative groups from the 1980s and 1990s in U.S. history, but not of liberal or minority groups that are identified as such.

‘Not perfect’

Democrats and some GOP board members also complained that they did not have sufficient time to review all the textbook changes submitted by publishers this week in response to criticism from the public and board members.

But board vice chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said the board had to make a decision with the deadline approaching for adoption of the materials.

“These books are not perfect, and they never will be perfect from everybody’s perspective,” Ratliff said. But he added that the publishers met the requirements they were supposed to meet and the board is doing the best it can with a textbook selection process that needs revision.

One digital publisher was penalized on Friday by the board, which voted to remove its six proposed social studies e-books from the adoption list. The publisher, WorldView, came under fire for initially resisting suggestions for changes from the board and the public.

WorldView finally submitted hundreds of proposed changes on Thursday in an effort to keep its books on the adoption list, but it was too late. Only three board members voted to approve its materials.

“I was very concerned with WorldView’s reaction to factual errors that were found in their materials,” said board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas. “They didn’t seem to be willing to correct obvious errors, so I was not comfortable voting for them.”

Contentious points

Board members also adopted new books for high school math and fine arts, but virtually all of the debate was over social studies. Current social studies books in Texas schools were adopted 12 years ago, so many of them are incomplete or out of date.

Among the areas that were objected to by textbook critics who testified before the board earlier this week were global warming, coverage of Muslims and Islamic terrorists, and the role of religion — including Moses and the Ten Commandments — in the founding of the U.S.

Complaints also were made about coverage of important historical figures. One world history book was cited for its mostly positive coverage of former Communist leaders Joseph Stalin of Russia and Mao Zedong of China, while giving short shrift to former U.S. leaders like Ronald Reagan.

Texas school districts are not required to purchase materials on the board’s recommended list, but most do so because those textbooks and digital books are certified to cover the state’s curriculum standards and the questions that appear on achievement tests.

In addition to the six …….more here.

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