Texas OKs most new history textbooks amid outcry
AUSTIN — Texas’ school board approved new history textbooks Friday for use across the nation’s second-largest state, but only after defeating six and having a top publisher withdraw a seventh — capping months of outcry over lessons some academics say exaggerate the influence of Moses in American democracy and negatively portray Muslims.
The state Board of Education sanctioned 89 books and classroom software packages that more than 5 million public school students will begin using next fall. But it took hours of sometimes testy discussion and left publishers scrambling to make hundreds of last-minute edits, some to no avail. A proposal to delay the vote to allow the board and general public to better check those changes was defeated.
“I’m comfortable enough that these books have been reviewed by many, many people,” said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican and the board’s vice chairman. “They are not perfect; they never will be.”
The history, social studies and government textbooks were submitted for approval in summer. Since then, academics and activists on the right and left have criticized many of them. Some worry they are too sympathetic to Islam or downplay the achievements of President Reagan. Others say they overstate the importance of Moses on America’s Founding Fathers or trumpet the free-market system too much.
Bitter ideological disputes over what gets taught in Texas classrooms have for years attracted national attention. The new books follow the state academic curriculum adopted in 2010, when board Republicans approved standards including conservative-championed topics, such as Moses and his influence on systems of law.