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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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Ed  •  Nov 22, 2014 @6:49 pm

    Today is Nov. 22. Time to remember that Lee Harvey Oswald worked at the Texas School Book Depository–is a law of Karma at work here?

  2. Bonnie  •  Nov 22, 2014 @7:22 pm

    We used to have a joke where I worked with employees from all over the country. Why doesn’t Texas slide into the Gulf of Mexico? Because Oklahoma sucks. It seems to be always a toss-up to which state has the most stupid governments. Oklahoma has Tom Coburn and Texas has Rick Perry.

  3. Swami  •  Nov 23, 2014 @3:19 am

    Forget those foolish Texas text books…There’s a new player in town. Anybody who has half a brain and has any regard for historical accuracy knows that Seth was the one who crafted our Constitution. Move over Moses!!
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/ancient-egyptian-handbook-of-spells-deciphered/ar-BBffDGD?ocid=HPDHP

    I don’t know how Solomon figures into the building of our democracy, but according to Rep. Louie Buller Gomert, King Solomon was the wisest man that ever ever lived. I kinda question Solomon’s wisdom.. I mean, any guy who has 700 wives and 300 concubines evidently isn’t wise enough to see that he’s being ruled by his appetite for the flesh.

  4. PurpleGirl  •  Nov 23, 2014 @4:53 am

    Sorry Texas but Ancient Israel was not a democracy, not even along the lines of Ancient Greece’s city-states. Israel was a theocratic monarchy. Where do these idiots get their ideas; I wish they could or would point to an exact passage in the Bible for their delusions.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 23, 2014 @9:38 am

    “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.”

    They might have a point about Moses.
    Thanks to conservatism, we’ve been lost in a desert of bad, worse, horrible, and atrocious conservative ideas for over 40+ years.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 23, 2014 @9:38 am

    “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.”

    They might have a point about Moses.
    Thanks to conservatism, we’ve been lost in a desert of bad, worse, horrible, and atrocious conservative ideas for over 40+ years.

  7. erinyes  •  Nov 23, 2014 @10:34 am

    Perhaps the answer really is secession. Poor Austin. An island of culture in a sea of somethin’ else. Perhaps in a generation or two, the stupid will be boiled off.

  8. Buckyblue  •  Nov 23, 2014 @10:54 am

    For my money Jim Inhofe is the bigger horses patute in OK.
    I’m with PG on this one. The only form of government the Bible supports is a theocracy. And then communism. The mention of democracy is non-existent, and seems to go against what the bible stands for. Heck, our founding fathers weren’t that big on democracy either. What, with the electoral college and senators chosen by state governments and judges appointed and confirmed. They understood that a majority of people weren’t always right and could be easily swayed. I agree with them on that.

  9. grannyeagle  •  Nov 23, 2014 @1:09 pm

    Perhaps the answer to our immigration “problem” is to give Texas back to Mexico. I certainly wouldn’t miss it.

  10. Stephen Karlson  •  Nov 23, 2014 @1:17 pm

    The best case for school choice might be that school boards and state education commissions can be captured by True Believers, right or left.

    As far as the Texas School Book Depository, that was a warehouse operated on behalf of the commercial publishers, who have more than a little reason to engage in rent-seeking at those state commissions.

  11. ronspri  •  Nov 23, 2014 @1:35 pm

    Sounds just like the stuff they detest when Muslims do it. Guess that’s why fewer and fewer people have any respect for them and their mushy beliefs.

  12. Swami  •  Nov 23, 2014 @1:56 pm

    I’m surprised that Regnery publishers didn’t get awarded the contract for the Texas text books. Seems like it all fits in with the idea of common core education.

  13. goatherd  •  Nov 23, 2014 @2:23 pm

    “The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. “

    –Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. I, ch. II

    This is getting to be an old saw, but, often misattributed, as it seems are so many quotes on the internet. It seems very possible to bind a group of people up in their own beliefs and make tractable serfs of them, and all the while they would see themselves as winning freedom.

    Regarding Common Core: I’ve heard various objections from people of varying political stripes. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have a dog in the fight except through my belief that the more educated we are as a nation, the better our chances of survival as a democracy and the happier and more fulfilled we will be as individuals.

    But, I do have a problem with the tactics of people against Common Core. The classic is an internet post with a “Common Core Worksheet.” Usually it begins something like this: “I have a Ph.D in theoretical physics and an intimate knowledge of calculus and higher mathematics, but, even I don’t understand this 3rd grade homework assignment …” Then there is an illustration of the worksheet in question, rife with confusion and errors. The problem is, I have checked a number of the examples via the Common Core resource site and I have NEVER been able to find the posted worksheet. Of course, given the nature of the internet, this comes as no surprise. Moreover, I found the worksheets I looked at pretty well designed, but I am not an educator and definitely not Ph.D material.

    I don’t discount people’s objections out of hand, but, I’d like to hear the arguments without people trying to bump the volume up a notch as we seem to do with all issues these days.

  14. Stephen Stralka  •  Nov 23, 2014 @2:58 pm

    Texas textbooks will teach public school students that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible…

    Sounds like David Barton’s crap. That’s kind of a pet peeve for me. No one person can be properly outraged by all the outrages, but this is one that particularly gets under my skin.

    You’ve got this vast amount of literature on the Constitution–Madison’s notes from the convention, that other guy’s notes from the convention, the Federalist papers, the Anti-Federalist papers, all the records of all the state conventions, numerous private letters in which the Founders lay out their thoughts, on and on and on.

    And David Barton ignores all of it. I have this awful vision of barbarian hordes burning the Library of Congress. It’s horrifying.

  15. Stephen Stralka  •  Nov 23, 2014 @3:15 pm

    goatherd, I was curious, so I found an example of one of those stories.

    Of course, in this case there isn’t even anything baffling about the assignment. I’m more or less 100% certain that this guy (who wished to remain anonymous!) doesn’t have a PhD. I’d want to remain anonymous too if I was that dumb.

  16. maha  •  Nov 23, 2014 @8:53 pm

    It doesn’t say what the Ph.D. is in. Landscape appreciation?

  17. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 23, 2014 @4:17 pm

    Stephen,
    “The New Know-Nothing Party” hates knowledge – and, instead, reveres faith – and would gladly burn books.

    Every book, except the Bible, that is.
    And related Christian books.

  18. Swami  •  Nov 23, 2014 @6:18 pm

    “I have a Ph.D., and I have no idea what is supposed to be done with this homework assignment,” said the man, who wished to remain anonymous.

    Maybe the good Doctor couldn’t see that the idea was to devote some time and involve himself in some inter-action with his child. If the child learns that subtraction means you take something away then the lesson is a complete success. Anything other than that is just spinning your wheels. If the Doctor just gives the child love and attention all the rest will work out. Oh ye Ph.D of little faith!

  19. Mike G  •  Nov 23, 2014 @7:44 pm

    I have this awful vision of barbarian hordes burning the Library of Congress.

    Ironic that the largest library in the world serves a group who for the most part are dumber than rocks and hate reading, science, reason and knowledge.
    I’m just waiting for the teabaggers to defund the Library of Congress and sell it all off on Amazon — except for the Bible, of course.

  20. erinyes  •  Nov 23, 2014 @8:18 pm

    Not to mention the Smithsonian, right smack dab in the middle of DC, Mike g.

  21. Swami  •  Nov 24, 2014 @12:09 am

    I would assume that someone with a Ph.D would have their kid enrolled in a Montessori school or some sort of academy dedicated to the children of the well to do high achievers ( the upper crust). I could be wrong.. but when you get to a certain level of achievement or economic success you no longer have to contend with the educational rules and restrictions placed upon the common man. Whatever common core is supposed to achieve by way of requirements, money and status can circumvent requirements imposed upon the commoner.

  22. Swami  •  Nov 24, 2014 @12:44 am

    Off topic..but. Does anybody remember sentence diagraming? I was never able to grasp any of that concept. For some reason I could never see how it was applicable to reality. I wonder if I missed something important in my educational journey. I mention this because the topic of common core comes up and I think of what some of the pitfalls of an educational process can be when something like sentence diagraming is thrown into the mix. Just wondering if anybody here can explain the value in knowing how and why sentence diagraming is worth learning.

  23. Swami  •  Nov 24, 2014 @5:10 am

    There are two m’s in diagramming…Maybe I should bone up on my spelling. But being a liberal I really shouldn’t be so anal about trivial matters. It must be the up-tight conservative part of my nature that causes me to even be concerned.

  24. grannyeagle  •  Nov 24, 2014 @12:24 pm

    For what it’s worth, it has been a long time since I was in grade school. I had no problem learning math, reading and writing. Although I don’t know much about how it is taught today, I wonder if it isn’t being made too complicated. Young children cannot grasp abstract thinking. I can’t remember the age when it kicks in. I remember whenever I wanted to put off doing something “until tomorrow” my mother would say: “Tomorrow never comes”. I would get so mad at her cause I thought of course it does. Today I understand. She had lots of those little sayings that are still with me. I know they came from her Scotch/Irish heritage. Seems those old-timers had a lot of wisdom. But wisdom can’t really be taught, it comes with age and experience. But then why don’t old people like McConnell or McCain seem to be wise? Therein lies the mystery.

  25. goatherd  •  Nov 24, 2014 @1:29 pm

    Yeah, Stephen, I’ve seen quite a few articles in that same mold. A number of them posted on facebook by some bagger friends. Periodically, I follow their links and try to make some objective evaluation whether it is bogus or not. I have a three strikes and you’re out policy. So after three bogus links, I stop wasting my time for a few months before I give them another chance. (Say, did anyone ever tell you that you look a little like G.I Joe?)

    I do have some close friends who just retired from teaching. They thought the Common Core was too difficult. But, they taught in Georgia and did a lot of work with special populations. I read a book recently about the culture in France as opposed to the USA. The book was written twenty years ago, but probably still offers some insights. Their educational system is incredibly challenging and if you do well, you can be pretty sure that you will find a job commensurate with your performance. Right wingers hate France, but, it’s a hell of a lot closer to the meritocracy they claim to want. (Actually, they want a “meritocracy” that will recognize THEM as having merit or give them a legacy position.)

    But, when I read about education in some other countries, I don’t see how we are going to remain competitive. Of course if I had had to deal with the French educational system, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown and be working a low end job or collecting aluminum cans.

    I don’t want to jinx you Swami, but, it sounds like you’re a candidate for one of those horrible dreams where suddenly you find yourself back in High School because you didn’t complete the section of your English class where they taught how to diagram sentences. Just remember, IT’S ONLY A DREAM!

  26. Doug  •  Nov 24, 2014 @11:27 pm

    Yes, I did sentence diagramming. And there’s a classic story about the English teacher who pointed out that there’s a double negative, but no such thing as a double positive – which prompted a reply from the student, ‘yeah, right’.

    Common Core has plenty of defects, especially if the admin and teachers don’t realize they can augment common core – but it’s the standard, the yardstick which allows one school, or district or state to be compared. That’s the source of the objection to common core – it will reveal the success and failure of the experimental non-public schools – and the small Christian schools getting public subsidies would be exposed for the failure they are. Some Charter or Magnet Schools may excel – and I’m all for that. Any school who does well but can cherry-pick students needs to admit that the comparison to public schools is skewed since the public school system must admit students with language or other handicaps.

    Still, I’m not opposed to experimentation, but the experiment is useless if you can’t measure results – that’s what common core does.

  27. erinyes  •  Nov 25, 2014 @8:22 am

    “It’s only a dream”. Yeah, but why am I always naked and I forgot my locker combination ?

  28. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 25, 2014 @9:40 am

    erinyes,
    Look on the plus side – they can’t give you a wedgie!

  29. erinyes  •  Nov 25, 2014 @10:54 am

    Good point, ‘Gulag !

  30. Sondra  •  Nov 30, 2014 @12:23 pm

    I always find it so interesting that Christians just love the old testament days in theory, but really know nothing of the actual history regarding Solomon. He was after all a King. There was nothing democratic about him. But after his death, the Hebrew people of that time were offered the choice of self-government or a least more representative government. They chose to be ruled by a King. Hence, King David – Solomon’s son: or one of his sons as I presume with all those wives and concubines there must have been many sons.

    Solomon, like Hamurabi before him, did codify some laws that represented a certain amount of fairness that was lacking in the crime and punishment aspect of life in those times: it was still barbaric in modern terms – just less so in ancient terms.

    Either the proponents of the ancient systems of life have no idea what the historic version of that life was for anyone not born into the ruling class, or they believe they would have been born into the princely class themselves: since there was no way of earning oneself into that position, except for women of course who could marry into that class if they were lucky.

  31. Swami  •  Nov 30, 2014 @1:43 pm

    but why am I always naked and I forgot my locker combination ?

    Well, I’ll put on my psychoanalyst hat…I think the being naked part represents suppressed feelings of vulnerability. The locker combination thing is probably an attempt to hide those feelings.



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