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Texas School Boards Battle Over What Some Perceive As Liberal Slants In High School Textbooks

BY Tom Brokaw
by Tom Brokaw on 7/25/02.

TOM BROKAW, anchor:
NBC News IN DEPTH tonight, in the midst of summer vacation when kids are taking a break from textbooks, a battle over those books now at a boiling point in Texas. At issue: whether the books somehow slant the truth. The outcome could affect what your kids end up reading come homework time. IN DEPTH, here's NBC's Kevin Tibbles.
Unidentified Woman: My request would be that no book be approved unless it clearly defines republic.
KEVIN TIBBLES reporting:
What you're watching is a debate over what high school students in Texas should be reading in school.
Ms. ELEANOR HUTCHESON (Daughters of the American Revolution): There are many sweeping statements on printed page 456 without any proof to support them. This is called bias.
TIBBLES: For years, conservative groups have complained many books contain a liberal slant.
Ms. CHRIS PATTERSON (Texas Public Policy Foundation): There still is the political correctness and the whitewashing and the bleaching of--of our history that--that needs to be addressed.
TIBBLES: What kinds of things do they want changed? According to the foundation, one high school history book says, "The Kennedy brothers played key roles in the civil rights movement." The criticism, "This is excessive that they spent as much time frustrating it, as helping." Another example, "Tourists and fur traders shot buffalo for sport." The criticism, "Once equipped with repeating weapons, Plains Indians overhunted and engaged in hunting for the sport of it as well."
So why is this important in the $4 1/2 billion textbook industry? Because Texas is the second largest buyer in the country. So whatever books the Texas School Board approves will likely wind up being used in classrooms from Alaska to Arkansas.
But critics of these groups charge them with hijacking the text in the textbooks.
Ms. SAMANTHA SMOOT (Texas Freedom Network): What the right wing would like to do when it comes to history textbooks is essentially stop the clock at 1950.
TIBBLES: Dr. Dan Chiras had his advanced science textbook rejected because it stated, among other things, that over 100 million Americans are breathing unhealthy air. The Texas Public Policy Foundation called that an exaggeration, misleading and shocking vitriol against Western civilization.
Dr. DANIEL CHIRAS ("Environmental Science" Author): Even though the opposing viewpoints were often presented as well, they disagree with those and then went on a witch hunt to find--you know, basically to--to burn this book at the stake.
TIBBLES: The foundation also succeeded in having this line removed from another textbook altogether, "Most experts on global warming feel that immediate action should be taken to curb global warming." But these groups say all they want is for kids to get the best education possible.
Ms. PEGGY VENABLE (Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy): Isn't it ludicrous that when parents and citizens get involved, review textbooks and testify on concerns they have, that a group wants to call it censorship?
TIBBLES: A heated debate that raises the question: How much influence should politics have in the education of millions of American children? Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Dallas.