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One of the most successful citizen lobby efforts is what likely Texas House Education Chairman called the CSE textbook review process.
Rep. Kent Grusendorf is expected to chair the state House education committee next session, but started his career as a citizen who got upset at some anti-free market material in textbooks. He soon found himself on the State Board of Education and then the Texas House of Representatives.
Over 200 CSE members from across Texas have testified before the State Board of Education calling for textbooks to cover free enterprise, democracy and patriotism in a positive light. The CSE representatives comprised the largest group at the hearings and CSE has coordinated the working group of eight organizations focused on improving textbooks in Texas.
The central resounding theme was that Texans demand that patriotism, free markets and democracy be taught to our children and we will not tolerate “revisionist” history or books which have propaganda.
State Representatives Anna Mowery and other elected officials, including former CSE Board Member now U.S. Cong. Ron Paul, emphasized the importance of adhering to state law and teaching patriotism and the benefits of a free market system. A representative from Cong. Paul’s office stated that facts are facts and history is not subjective.
CSE Activist of the Year John Hoppe, from Sugar Land, outlined the SBOE’s authority and their responsibility to the school children of Texas. Other activists talked about the importance between distinguishing between a democracy and a republic in teaching about our form of government. Peggy Venable, Texas CSE director concluded that you can’t learn from history unless you learn history.
The SBOE members were receptive to our input and asked that we continue to point out errors and concerns we have. Publishers have asked that individuals contact them with errors and concerns. (Texas CSE has a list of publishers.) The next hearing is set for August 22 and the last hearing for public comment is set for September 12 (tent.) NOTE: Citizens are required to sign up 10 days in advance of the hearing, but can submit written testimony to be entered into the record if they do not wish to testify.
CSE has gotten national media attention. Peggy has been on the Phil Donohue Show on MSNBC and CSE was a cornerstone in the front-page article in the New York Times this summer. Peggy appeared in NBC Nightly News on July 25. All major newspapers and a number of TV stations, in addition to the Christian Science Monitor, NBC Nightly News, Texas State Network and Texas Public Network, covered the issue. Now the magazine Harper’s Bazaar and US News and World Report have contacted CSE for interviews.
History of the textbook project
Texas is the largest purchasers of textbooks in the country (except CA) and is one of 21 states with a central approval process, so textbooks adopted in Texas are under tremendous scrutiny. California and other states don’t have a central approval process – so Texas is in the drivers seat!
John Hoppe brought the textbook adoption issue to our attention last year when he became aware that some science textbooks under consideration by the State Board of Education were presenting theories as facts and were “nothing short of environmental activists’ workbooks.”
The SBOE rejected one textbook and others were revised to accommodate our members’ concerns and those of others who weighed in on the issue. The Texas Public Policy Institute had contracted with reviewers and presented their findings to the SBOE but had not recommended rejecting any textbooks.
Citizens realized that their concerns could be addressed, and we could successfully remind publishers that we are the customers.
How textbooks are adopted in Texas
The Texas Education Agency puts out a “call for bids” and publishers submit their intention to bid and then submit the textbooks. The call for bids usually requires the textbooks be submitted for consideration in the summer and available for public review at 20 Education Region Service Centers. The SBOE holds hearings in the late summer and fall, and makes a final determination in November regarding which books to put on the “conforming” and the “nonconforming” list and which textbooks, if any, to reject. The conforming list refers to the books’ covering all of the essential knowledge and skills requirements. Textbooks placed on the list can be purchased by local school districts using funds from the Permanent School Fund. The 1,043 local independent school districts (ISD) then have procedures for reviewing textbooks and the final purchasing decision is made by the locally elected school boards. Some ISD’s provide for parental and citizen participation; but a few do not. This information is usually available on the ISD web site or citizens can call and ask for the textbook coordinator.
Texas is the second largest purchaser of textbooks in the country (only California purchases more) and Texas spends almost half a billion dollars a year on textbooks and instructional materials.
Preserving accuracy in academia
CSE members recognize the importance of this project. Freedom and liberty will not be maintained unless our children “understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with an appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage “(Texas Education Code). “Rewriting history” or teaching politically correct propaganda will not accomplish this. Our forefathers sacrificed all to insure that we enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Texas CSE is leading the campaign to insure that Social Studies, History and Economics textbooks scheduled for adoption in Texas this year instill patriotism in our students and are free from propaganda.
Social Studies, History and Economics textbooks are scheduled for adoption by the State Board of Education (SBOE) in November 2002, and have a shelf life of six to eight years. In 2001, Texas CSE and our members found hundreds of errors and anti-American sentiment in proposed science textbooks. As a result of our members work, one textbook was rejected but more importantly, the propaganda which has become rampant in textbooks gained state and national attention.
In view of the hundreds of factual errors, errors of omission and propaganda found in textbooks last year, it is crucial that the legislature craft and implement a plan that restores academic integrity to the process which controls our educational process. Until that time, however, citizen involvement can play an important role (as it did in 2001) in the textbook selection process.
Texas CSE’s members, our coalition partners and legislators who are concerned with accuracy in academia are working together to insure that textbooks are factual and not propaganda. Collectively we have hundreds of members across the state reviewing textbooks based on the criteria for facts that we have developed. We are working with the publishers to correct errors and propaganda. We are also working with the State Board of Education and legislators as a second line of defense. Finally, we plan to rate the textbooks that are adopted and send this information to local school boards.
Concurrently, we will be working with legislators on draft legislation which will insure that the elected SBOE is given more authority and that they maintain control of the Permanent School Fund (PSF). With an anticipated budget shortfall in Texas, some legislators are salivating over the possibility of getting their hands on the almost $20 billion PSF. Currently, only the interest from the fund can be used and it is dedicated to education.
Our children deserve the best education we can give them. Propaganda has no place in the classroom. Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy rejects revisionist history, anti-free market and anti-American sentiment and “politically correct textbooks” which promote advocacy. Factual information only be taught in textbooks and auxiliary material paid for by Texans and we demand that patriotism, free markets and democracy be presented in a favorable manner.
CSE’s PRINCIPLES FOR ACADEMIC INTEGRITY
Texas textbooks should adhere to the Texas Education Code: Ch 28, Subch A, Sec 28.002. “A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with an appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage “ (bold emphasis added).
Textbooks used in public schools should:
Parents and citizens should be encouraged to work with teachers and elected officials to help make sure the textbooks used meet these principles for academic integrity. The schoolchildren of Texas deserve nothing less than the best textbooks we can provide them.