School textbook wars

Georgene Rice of KPDQ-FM, interviews Jonathan Saenz, the Legislative Director of the Liberty Institute. They discuss the controversy of the textbook social study standards being discussed and set by the Texas State Board of Education.

GEORGENE: Due to the large number of textbooks purchased by Texas, their standards have implications for other textbook users across the country. Liberty Institute testified before the Board for keeping historical figures in the standards and what is appropriate basic knowledge that should be taught students. Mr. Saenz please take us through this process.

SAENZ: We are talking about basic principles of U.S. Government, U.S. History, World History, and Economics, the building blocks that made America great. Early on, left wing liberals were attempting to rewrite and revise history. With our group, teachers, parents and other groups we were able to establish some balance and allow common sense to prevail, no matter what side of the spectrum you are on politically.

GEORGENE: What role does the Board play in ultimately deciding what ends up in the classroom and how does this affect our classrooms in the Northwest?

SAENZ: The Texas Board essentially approves the content of the textbooks. The publisher’s can’t tailor make textbooks for each state, so they look to the standards set by one of the largest book purchasers, Texas, which has almost 5 million students. These textbooks are then the ones purchased by schools in the Pacific Northwest. And, as a matter of fact there was a professor from Willamette University who also testified at these hearings. He was partnering with an extremely liberal group.

GEORGENE: I know there is an effort to sanitize and reference the Judeo-Christian influence on the country using the argument of the separation of church and state. What other issues are being raised in shaping the content of these textbooks.

SAENZ: We talked about judicial restraint and judicial activism. In our organization of Constitutional Attorneys we know those words mean something and we have seen judges ignore what the people have voted for, but make decisions based upon their own policy. That is judicial activism and that section was removed before the Board could vote on it. We argued that the importance of the concept requires it be included in the content standards.

GEORGENE: What historic figures and ideas are they considering replacing?

SAENZ: You had people like Neil Armstrong and Thomas Edison taken out and business leaders like Mary Kay Ash, the cosmetic maker, and Wallace Amos famous for making cookies. It didn’t add up. Figures like Armstrong and Edison came from a moral American work ethic that is a part of American exceptionalism. I think they see that and think “we’ve got to get rid of these guys because they are great symbols of what continues to make America great”. So, they are not only attacking concepts, they are attacking people.

GEORGENE: In fact, isn’t American exceptionalism at the heart of this ongoing debate? The diversity movement suggests there is nothing unique about the country, so you have to look for individuals who are lesser known and whose contributions perhaps have had less impact in order to reflect a diverse community.

SAENZ: They feel that if they can get into the classroom they will reshape and revise history. They want to indoctrinate, infiltrate and saturate all of education policy with their liberal ideology.

GEORGENE: What happens next?

SAENZ: Early in the process an unelected group of educators got to make changes to the standards before the elected members of the Board ever got to vote. The Texas State Board of Education was then able to weigh in with a first round of readings, hearings and a vote. They will come back in May and allow further testimonies and then take a final round of votes. Now we have a real product that is coming close to a final vote. This gives us that ability to see what items we really need to focus on to be sure social studies continues to be taught accurately and correctly.

After the process is complete, the textbook publishers are aware of the standards and produce a textbook that follows them very closely. In a year or two, the publishers will submit their books and the State Board of Education decides what textbooks to adopt based on the standards voted upon.

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