Texas Textbooks Get Some Improvements, But Problems Remain, Say Critics

A watchdog group said recently that the Texas State Board of Education has rejected some of the most problematic proposed changes to the state’s public school social studies textbooks, but attempts to force religious ideas into the curriculum remain a serious threat.

The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), an Americans United ally, has long monitored the controversy surrounding public school textbooks in Texas. Many times, creationists and others with a far-right agenda have tried to force fundamentalist dogma into the public school curriculum by suggesting various changes to statewide materials. (See “Erasing Separation?,” November 2014 Church & State.)

Fortunately many of those efforts fell short once again. As reported by TFN in October, textbook publishers told state education officials that they intend to make corrections that include addressing misinformation about the term “jihad,” removing a claim that implies Islam spread only through violence and making it clearer that slavery was the primary cause of the American Civil War.

But, TFN said, some textbooks, which will be used next year, still overstate the influence of evangelical Christianity during the founding period of the United States.

“These textbooks make Moses the original founding father and credit him for virtually every distinctive feature of American government,” South­ern Methodist University history professor Kathleen Wellman said in a TFN news release. “I believe students will believe Moses was the first American.”

Along with TFN, Americans Uni­­­-  t­ed also took action. The two groups partnered in November to circulate a petition that asks the textbook publishers to stand firm and produce only books that are factually sound and free of fundamentalist propaganda. 

“What happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas: National publishers cater to Texas because the state buys 48 million textbooks every year; this means that these textbooks could end up in your local public school,” reads the petition. “These textbooks are so flawed they have no place in a public school government class!”