Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ten Outrageous Changes Publishers Agreed to Make to Texas Social Studies Textbooks in 2002

Ten Outrageous Changes Publishers Agreed to Make to Texas Social Studies Textbooks in 2002

Ten Outrageous Changes Publishers Agreed to Make to Texas Social Studies Textbooks in 2002

The State Board of Education
is set this year to adopt new social studies textbooks for Texas public
schools. So we went back to our files to see what happened during the
last social studies textbook adoption in the Lone Star State more than a
decade ago.

During public hearings and in written comments submitted in
2002, right-wing activists and state board members raised numerous
political objections to content in history, geography, government and
economics textbooks publishers had submitted to the board for approval.
The pressure they put on publishers to bow to political demands and
alter their textbooks succeeded in a number of areas. Following are ten
of the worst changes publishers agreed to make:

  1. Publishers of world geography textbooks agreed to revise references
    to the formation of fossil fuels, glaciers and landscape features
    occurring “millions of years ago” to read instead “in the distant past”
    and “over time.” The revised passages then would not conflict with the
    beliefs of creationists that Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
  2. A publisher agreed to remove links to the Environmental Protection
    Agency’s website after a critic complained that a textbook passage on
    the environment contained “too much trash” and “promotes activism and
    sends students to EPA websites.”
  3. A publisher agreed to change “many scientists” to “some scientists”
    in a discussion of scientists who accept the overwhelming evidence about
    the greenhouse effect and climate change.
  4. A publisher agreed to delete a sentence reading “Acid rain that is
    produced in the United States and carried north by wind is a major
    environmental problem for Canada.” A critic had objected to the negative
    impact of acid rain being discussed as a fact and to the implication
    that America was responsible.
  5. Publishers altered common descriptions of the Constitution as a
    “living document” (in some cases deleting the term) because right-wing
    critics claimed that the term was hostile to a strict interpretation of
    the Constitution.
  6. A publisher agreed to delete “In the United States, everyone has a
    right to free public education” from a textbook after a critic argued
    that the sentence suggested education is an entitlement.
  7. A publisher agreed to delete a Critical Thinking question asking
    students whether they think civil rights activists were justified in
    breaking the law in their struggle for equality. In fact, many civil
    rights activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr., engaged in civil
    disobedience and were arrested for violating laws regarding segregation
    and public protests. But a critic argued that the question encouraged
    students to break the law.
  8. A publisher agreed to delete a sentence reading “Christians would
    later accept slavery in other contexts.” This came after a critic argued
    that textbook discussions of slavery in the United States were too
    negative and anti-Christian.
  9. After a critic called the sentence “more propaganda” for Islam, a
    publisher agreed to delete a sentence that read: ““[M]any other
    teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving
    to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their
    daily lives.”
  10. A publisher altered a passage that discussed how Osama bin Laden’s
    instructions to kill Americans were not supported by the Quran, which
    tells soldiers to treat civilians with kindness and justice. A critic
    insisted that the passage was an example of textbooks “going to great
    length to put a positive light on Muslim teachings.” The publisher
    changed the passage so that it said simply that not all Muslims agreed
    with bin Laden’s beliefs.
Those social studies textbooks will have been in Texas public
schools for 12 years before those adopted by the State Board of
Education this year  get to classrooms in the fall of 2015.

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