November 18, 2015 – Texas Votes Against Fact Checking School Children’s History Books

On November 18, 2015, the Texas State Board of Education voted 8-7 against a plan to create a group of state university professors to review Texas school children’s textbooks for factual errors. As the Dallas News reported:

The push for more experts to be involved came after more than a year of controversy over board-sanctioned books’ coverage of global warming, descriptions of Islamic history and terrorism and handling of the Civil War and the importance of Moses and the Ten Commandments to the founding fathers.”

Further controversy arose after the discovery that a newly approved geography text described African slaves forcibly brought to North America as “workers.”

Because Texas is one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, decisions it makes on content strongly influences books marketed in other states. Critics charge that the elected board members have politicized selection of textbook content.

Pro-science supporters rally prior to a State Board of Education public hearing on proposed new science textbooks., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (Eric Gay, AP photo)

Pro-science supporters rally prior to a State Board of Education public hearing on proposed new science textbooks., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (Eric Gay, AP photo)

According to the Dallas News, some of the content approved by the board in 2014 was deemed to be of questionable veracity:

One [statement] was that Moses was much on the Founders’ minds when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and that the Old Testament provided the roots of Western democracy. Others objected to a world history book’s mostly positive coverage of former Communist leaders Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong of China.”

Although school districts in Texas are free to choose whatever books they want to use, most adhere to the list adopted by the state board; it tracks the curriculum standards as well as questions asked on state achievement tests, and is undoubtedly less expensive because of the volume of texts produced.

In September, 2018, the State Board of Education was at it again. They voted to adjust what students in every grade are required to learn in the classroom. Among the changes, board members approved the removal of several historical figures, including Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller, from the curriculum.

The board also voted to keep in the curriculum a reference to the “heroism” of the defenders of the Alamo, which had been recommended for elimination, as well as Moses’ influence on the writing of the nation’s founding documents, multiple references to “Judeo-Christian” values and a requirement that students explain how the “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict” in the Middle East.

In 2021, Texas Republicans introduced a new bill, Senate Bill 3, to remove requirements that public schools teach about the history of slavery and white male domination in America.

A Black Lives Matter protest in New York City in April 2017. (Wikimedia Commons)

These efforts began when the Texas legislature adopted House Bill 3979, prohibiting public schools from teaching the New York Times’ 1619 Project — a series by Nikole Hannah-Jones about the ongoing impact of slavery and racism on American society. According to the Texas Tribune, during legislative debates over the bill, concerns were expressed that teachers were “unfairly blaming white people for historical wrongs and distorting the founding fathers’ accomplishments.”

Governor Gregg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, 2021. His signature makes Texas one of a handful of states across the country that have passed such legislation, which aims to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in K-12 public school classrooms. [Critical race theory (CRT) is an academic term that studies how race and racism have impacted social and local structures in the United States. Republicans have chosen to reinterpret CRT as any criticism of white privilege in American history.]

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