Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, November 22nd, 2014.


Texas Textbooks Up the Crazy

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Obama Administration

The infamous Texas textbook adoption committee has just approved new social studies books for the state’s public schools.

Critics said that some of the government and world history textbooks, for example, exaggerate the influence of biblical figures — such as Moses and Solomon — on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition. A few of the books include material that critics said  undermines the constitutional concept of the separation of church and state. They say some world geography textbooks give short shrift to the role that conquest played in the spread of humanity while at the same time negatively portraying Islam and Muslims. Others criticized some of the books as being too sympathetic to Muslims, revealing the spectrum of political views among the critics.

I don’t know how much of these claims are accurate:

Christian conservatives win, children lose: Texas textbooks will teach public school students that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible, and the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses.

On Friday the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted along party lines 10-5 to approve the biased and inaccurate textbooks. The vote signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children.

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

On the bright side, apparently some passages denying climate change were toned down.

Also I found it interesting that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pulled out of the review process at the last minute.

According to the latest documents posted publicly, the publisher declined to make changes in its government textbook that would add greater coverage of Judeo-Christian influence — including Moses — on America’s founding fathers.

A Houghton Mifflin representative said the company decided to remove the book, which did not meet all Texas curriculum standards, from the state’s process because the text was designed for a national market.

I wish I still had contacts in the textbook industry. I’m guessing that HMH decided that publishing a Texas-only edition wasn’t profitable enough to bother about. Otherwise they’d probably give Texas whatever it wanted.

For years publishers have been cranking out Texas editions in a way that required a simple black plate change on the presses. In other words, usually the national and Texas editions looked identical, page for page, but here and there “national” text was swapped out and replaced by Texas-specific text when required. Or, in some cases, a blank space in the national edition would be filled by Texas-specific text in the Texas edition. But this can only be done if the differences between the Texas and national edition are minor. If the differences require the Texas edition to have its own page layouts and features, the cost of cranking out a separate edition go up quite a bit, and HMH must have decided the textbooks would be unsalable in other states.

However, I also understand that textbook publishers are phasing out the big honking expensive textbook series that I used to produce and moving toward providing digital content, making boutique textbooks a lot more affordable.

The textbook industry these days is pretty much dominated by just three companies — Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill and Pearson — so one of them deciding to not play the Texas textbook committee’s games is pretty significant.

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