Textbooks: A Political Battleground?

Are textbooks today’s political battleground? It seems like every year, there’s a new battle over what information should be included in textbooks. This debate often centers around certain science topics, such as evolution and the age of the earth. However, this month, a group called the Texas Freedom Network plans to argue against what they feel are problematic changes in social studies and history textbooks.

Most debates about textbooks’ content center in Texas. The New York Review of Books explains why here, but the short version is that Texas is big, and the textbooks chosen for the state get mass-produced, and therefore are highly likely to be picked up by other states too.

Now, the Texas State Board of Education has promised a hearing about the new social studies textbooks, and on September 16th, the Texas Freedom Network is urging those with a stake in the matter to be present at the hearing.

Textbooks should have accurate information, but politics are divided.

On their website, where they call for the like-minded to sign their petition, the TFN explains their position on textbooks’ contents.

“Four years ago, a far-right group of Texas State Board of Education members went on the attack against fact-based history. Those members voted to portray the separation of church and state as a myth. They voted to diminish the role of slavery as a cause for the Civil War. They voted to downplay the contributions of Mexican-Americans, women and other minorities in America’s history.”

It’s not just the TFN who find the changes to be biased an inaccurate, either. In 2010, when the changes to textbooks were debated, the Washington Post said historians spoke out, decrying changes to social studies and history textbooks.

However, according to the New York Times, those who supported the changes to the textbooks said the changes were made in the interest of correction. They said that textbooks already showed a skewed version of history, and they were righting a wrong.

The final vote to either accept or reject textbooks with the more conservative content will be in November. In the meantime, the Associated Press reports that new rules for the textbook review panels were passed in January.

These review panels have the power to raise objections about textbooks that can influence the decisions about which textbooks to adopt. New rules require textbooks to be reviewed by multiple panel members and for the panel to give priority to teachers and professors.

The hearing on proposed contents of social studies textbooks will be September 16.

Photo Credits: Truthout.org via photopin cc, TFN Twitter,