The Austin Chronicle

Despite "Flawed" Process, SBOE Votes for Social Studies Textbooks

By Mary Tuma, November 21, 2014, 2:00pm, Newsdesk

Instead of taking the time to review hundreds of pages of textbook revisions and public comments flooding the Texas Education Agency, a majority of the State Board of Education voted to approve contentious social studies textbooks Friday.

Squarely along party lines, the board cast a 10-5 vote to approve texts criticized for containing numerous factual and ideologically-driven errors. While an amendment, offered up by board member Ruben Cortez Jr., D-Brownsville, sought to delay the vote until a specially called Dec. 1 meeting – an effort to provide members the opportunity to fully consider last-minute changes and suggestions from the public – it failed 5-9.

All five board Democrats – Cortez, Mavis Knight (Dallas), Marisa Perez (San Antonio), Lawrence Allen (Fresno), and Martha Dominguez (El Paso) refused to accept the questionable texts. Perez, who said she was not “proud” of the proposed books, slammed the board for designing a “screwy” process for textbook publishers that includes vague deadlines and a “flawed” submission schedule that allows revisions to be made at the eleventh hour. “I can’t in good faith support changes I haven’t seen,” said Perez.

Allen, too, vocalized serious reservations about pushing through a vote before analyzing the changes, some of which trickled in within the past 24 hours. He directed school districts, who have the final say in which books they accept, to examine the text carefully and “make good choices.” Knight reiterated her staunch opposition to the social studies content, based on TEKS heavily influenced by the largely right-wing board of 2010, saying flatly, “I will not support this.”

"What we saw today shows very clearly that the process the State Board of Education uses to adopt textbooks is a sham," said Kathy Miller, president of SBOE watchdog Texas Freedom Network. "This board adopted textbooks with numerous late changes that the public had little opportunity to review and comment on and that even board members themselves admitted they had not read. They can't honestly say they know what's in these textbooks, which could be in classrooms for a decade."

Thankfully, as TFN notes, publishers have come around to many of the problems raised by a coalition of scholars in September, including removing a cartoon mocking affirmative action recipients, strengthening emphasis on slavery’s role as the central impetus for the Civil War, striking negative stereotypes of Muslims, and revising climate change denialism. However, factual inaccuracies and exaggerations of Moses’ impact on the founding of the U.S. persist, troubling academics, who voiced their concerns at the Tuesday hearing, as Newsdesk previously reported.

Amid the hoopla, it looks like at least one textbook publisher has quietly exited the controversy: Houghton Mifflin pulled a nationally-used U.S. government book for high school students this morning because it did not meet all of the state’s curriculum standards.

The approved books are slated to hit Texas classrooms in 2015 and be used for the next decade.

An earlier version of this story noted that Houghton Mifflin pulled "social studies" textbooks this morning. Rather, the publishers pulled one title, a U.S. government book used for high school.

Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.