The battle for accurate history textbooks in Texas
Posted by Caitlin
January 30, 2015
Texas is often known for its political conservativeness; if you take a look at the bills that have been proposed during the 84th session of the Texas Legislature that began January 13 you see many examples of that. These bills include many attacks on reproductive justice.
It is often forgotten though, just how important the power of testimony is when it comes to preventing some issues from making this far in legislation.
In September of 2014 the State Board of Education (SBOE) held a public hearing to discuss possible changes that wanted to be made to Texas high school social studies textbooks. On the surface this doesn’t seem like that large of an issue, after all shouldn’t textbooks be updated with the most current and accurate information? The changes that were being proposed however would have done the exact opposite of that. When you take into consideration that the textbooks that are created in Texas are then manufactured as the template for textbooks across the country and that once implemented those changes would remain for years, they become even more concerning.
Proposed changes included:
- teaching students that Moses influenced the writing of America’s founding documents.
- failure to acknowledge the severity of the discrimination and oppression suffered by African Americans
- it’s troubling treatment of affirmative action
- inflammatory stereotyping of Muslims.
The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), which is a non-profit grassroots organization that is based in Austin, TX did a great job of reporting and following the what took place during and after the hearing.
Having a TFN student chapter at my university allowed me to hear directly from my peers what happened during the public hearing as two of members of our chapter went to the Capitol in September to directly testify against the proposed changes. It was the first time that I was being exposed to -albeit secondhand- seeing peers of mine, students my age, have a direct effect on legislation.
After the hearing it took until November for us to hear a final decision. Luckily though our work paid off as TFN president Kathy Miller explained in her post on the website’s blog. The decision was as follows:
REMOVED: climate-change denial
REMOVED: biased depiction of affirmative action
CORRECTED: slavery identified as primary cause of Civil War
REJECTED: inflammatory content stereotyping Muslims
However many textbooks do still have passages that reference Moses having influence over the Constitution. It proves that even something you tend to take for granted, like textbooks, needs watching over when there are extremists wanting to change their foundation. History textbooks are especially important because they are the basis for which students learn about the foundation of this country, and for them to learn a biased depiction of history would be outrageously unfair.
This episode should give heart to anyone who is watching the Texas Legislature’s new bills — when we speak out to our elected officials, it matters.