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Education Reporter

Pro-family Groups Winning Textbook Battle in Texas
ROUND ROCK, TX - Becky Armstrong of Texas Eagle Forum (TEF) is one of a small but dedicated army of textbook reviewers getting results from publishers for their efforts to correct factual errors and balance leftwing bias. Re-cently, Prentice Hall responded positively to TEF's concerns - as presented by Armstrong - about two new textbooks, The American Nation and World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures.

Prentice Hall made changes based on TEF's recommendations, including:

  • Page 56 of The American Nation did not mention the resurrection of Jesus as a tenet of Christianity. The publisher corrected this omission by inserting: "A key tenet of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, was seen as proof of Jesus's divinity."  
  • On page 58 of this textbook, TEF's objection that coverage of the Crusades was "too compressed" resulted in a more clear and accurate description. 
  • On page 43 of World Explorer, TEF objected that a sidebar on global warming was "not well connected to the narrative," and that it established global warming as fact without mentioning the other side of the debate. The sidebar and a related exercise were removed. 
  • On page 53 of World Explorer, TEF's suggested revision resulted in a more accurate definition of the free enterprise system and, on page 55, the publisher agreed to incorporate the word "republic" into a description of representative government.

These victories follow the successful efforts of individuals and pro-family groups last year to influence the adoption of better environmental science textbooks by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). Five textbooks were adopted, one was rejected, one was accepted after revisions were made, and two more were voluntarily withdrawn by the publishers.

While liberals blamed "censorship" and "rightwing political correctness" for the rejection of Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future, published by Jones & Bartlett, SBOE member Don McLeroy wrote in a review of the textbook that "the entire construct of the book is based on factual error and false pre-mise." He quoted from the preface, written by its author, Daniel Chiras: "The main theme of this book is that the long-term wellbeing of this planet and its inhabitants is in jeopardy and that to create an enduring human presence, we must make a massive course change." Buzzwords and phrases in the opening pages include "rethink and restructure," "revamp," "redesign," and "reshape" modern society, while blaming economic and human population growth as "root causes" of environmental problems.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, spokesman for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a group that also participates in the textbook review process, points out that textbooks often contain factual errors. According to Sullivan, one high school science textbook claimed that "the sun is stationary" and another stated that "the use of chlorofluorocarbons has been banned around the world," when in fact their use is not banned in the United States.

Sullivan adds that errors and bias also abound in social studies textbooks. One book describes socialist systems as operating "for the good" of all people, while condemning our economy as greedy. Others claim that slavery was invented by Western European societies. "Make no mistake," he asserts, "left-wing groups want censorship. They unabashedly seek to censor the triumph of the American experiment while discrediting opponents with assertions of hidden agendas."

Sullivan maintains that "open government and public involvement in the review process has vastly improved the quality of textbooks."

Vital to this process is Texas's elected SBOE, and critics would like to make it an appointed board. According to Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview, Texas, founders of Educational Research Analysts and textbook reviewers for over 40 years, Texas' elected state board is too popular to do away with outright, so opponents are instead trying to gut its power. One recent legislative effort would have ended the board's approval of textbooks, they note, letting California dictate the content. Other efforts would have weakened the Texas Permanent School Fund, which pays for textbooks.

Texas is the second-largest textbook buyer in the country (after California), and books adopted in Texas often end up in other states. "If private citizens and pro-family public policy organizations in our state are monitoring textbooks for errors, politically correct bias and offensive information, that helps children everywhere," Becky Armstrong points out.

"We have many champions working on it, starting with the Gablers, who are true American heroes," she continues. "The Gablers have been blowing the whistle on error-filled textbooks for decades." In 1999, the Texas State Senate passed a resolution acknowledging the Gablers' "many years of volunteer service . . . promoting excellence in education for our young Texans . . ."

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