The Texas state board of education, which earlier this year stirred national controversy with its overhaul of social studies standards, is again drawing headlines—and fierce debate—over a resolution warning textbook publishers against infusing their materials with “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions.”
The resolution, which was being debated by the board as of press time Sept. 24, declares that a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks,” and says the board should reject any future textbooks that favor one religion over another. It cites one world history textbook that devoted “120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings, but 248 ... to those of Islam.” It adds that the book highlights “Crusaders’ massacre of Muslims at Jerusalem in 1099,” but the resolution cites massacres by Muslims that were excluded.
But the Texas Freedom Network, an advocacy group frequently critical of the board’s conservatives, calls the resolution’s claims “superficial and grossly misleading.”
The Texas board, led by a bloc of social conservatives, has repeatedly found itself engaged in politically tinged debates, especially over the teaching of social studies and science. (“Standards Debate Puts Texas Board in Hot Seat ,” June 9, 2010.)
Don McLeroy, a Republican on the GOP-controlled board who backs the resolution, said he believes world history textbooks have long failed to adequately discuss Judaism and Christianity and their importance in history. “This is bringing some needed focus on” those books, he said.
Critics note that the resolution refers to textbooks that are no longer used in Texas, as they were replaced in 2003. But Mr. McLeroy said board rules prohibit a resolution on the current textbooks. And he believes the perceived bias is still present.
Jay A. Diskey, the executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers, said that publishers “go to great lengths to create accurate and unbiased books.”
He added, “However, textbooks have long been in the cross hairs in Americas cultural wars.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 29, 2010 edition of Education Week as Texas Textbooks: ‘Pro-Islamic’ Bias?