Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

U.S. History textbook battle bigger than Texas

Published Tuesday, April 13, in Cumberland Times-News.

I agree with Cynthia Dunbar on this: America’s classrooms are no place to preach religion, but students should learn its importance in our nation’s founding and foundation.

Ms. Dunbar seemed to be one stirring national interest in the Texas State Board of Education textbook revision controversy (and the board had invited phone calls and emails from interested citizens), so I called her to learn her views.

She told me that school textbooks today redact references to God from Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution excerpts. Students should learn accurate history, we agreed, the truth about our founders’ inspirations and the ideals they impart to us.

After three days of contentious debate on 300 amendments, the board voted 10-5 on March 12 to pass a set of curriculum standards for grades K-12 that preserve a patriotic (rather than revisionist) approach to American history.

American Center for Law and Justice attorney Jay Sekulow speaks of revisionists: “Our Founders acknowledged their reliance upon Divine Providence, that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights; and this idea that now you remove that, it as if it is does not exist…. It really goes to the depths of what these groups are trying to get at, and that is to expunge any reference to America's religious heritage" (FOX News, March 8).

The TSBOE vote followed the party line, so Democrats (three Hispanics, two blacks) are shouting “racism” and accusing Republicans of imposing religious and conservative views. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus, composed of 44 Texas House members, has scheduled an April 28 hearing on the TSBOE’s process; and Democratic state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa says he will work to abolish the board when the legislature convenes next January.

Gov. Rick Perry tells the Associated Press (March 26 Austin Star-Telegram) the process works. Perry declined federal funding earlier this year and rejected a national curriculum developed by governors and education leaders in preference for the elected board's updates.

The board must review public comment now, and then take a final vote in May. If it passes, the new curriculum starts in the 2011-12 school year and stays in place for a decade. Because Texas is a major textbook purchaser, these changes set standards to be included in textbooks marketed nationwide.

Gilbert T. Sewall, American Textbook Council director, tells FOX, no doubt, “identity politics have contributed to the decline of textbook quality over the last 20 years."

Sewall says groups from nutritionists to gender activists have demanded their way into textbooks. He says Christians comprise the most visible groups who want to “use American history textbooks (positively) to recapture the soul of the nation."

A national Rasmussen survey (March 9) concludes 55 percent of Americans believe school textbooks present information in a politically correct manner, rather than accurately (18 percent are undecided). Forty-three percent say U.S. history textbooks are not accurate (26 percent are undecided). Dissatisfaction is higher among parents of schoolchildren.

Chair Gail Lowe tells KUT News Austin the TSBOE has spent more than a year discussing and developing the social studies curriculum review standards: “We have sought input from teachers, parents, professors, history experts, business and industry leaders,” and more recently, all interested Americans.

Board member Terri Leo calls the standards a "world-class document."

ABC News reports (March 10): “State governors and education officials proposed new national standards for K-12 education today, a step President Obama believes is key to improving the quality of the nation's schools.”

Jay Sekulow says, “Well, if you grab the minds of the young people, you grab the minds of the next generation."

Write, or call (512)463-9734.

Nancy E. Thoerig
Mount Savage

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