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Issues in Eduction
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Issues in Eduction

BY Lucy Hood

A four-month debate over Texas textbooks' portrayal of everything from religion to the Alamo and its profound consequences for schoolchildren across the nation is expected to end this week. Social studies books to be adopted by the State Board of Education were vetted over four months for mistakes, philosophical preferences and compliance with Texas' curriculum. "I think it's over and done with, and we'll pass the proclamation," said state board Chairwoman Grace Shore, R-Longview. But at least one board member and one interest group have cautioned that anything can happen at the last minute. The outcome will affect what students learn nationwide. Texas is the second-largest textbook market in the country. Public schools will spend $345 million on the social studies texts alone, and changes made to the Texas books often end up in classrooms elsewhere. The books, in the end, will incorporate suggestions from the right and the left. Both sides unleashed their critiques at three public hearings in July, August and September. And publishers, to a great extent, acquiesced to their demands. At the behest of Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, for example, Prentice Hall increased Hispanic representation in some books and created a 32-page section featuring many Hispanics, including defenders of the Alamo, who played a role in Texas history. Publishers also made changes requested by a conservative coalition. The San Antonio-based Texas Public Policy Foundation took the lead with a $100,000 study that produced a list of 533 alleged mistakes. Other groups, such as the Texas Eagle Forum and Citizens for a Sound Economy, offered their own lists. According to the Texas Freedom Network, those revisions promote Christianity, attack Islam and distort the teaching of science and slavery. The network is a liberal group that monitors the religious right. "These kinds of changes go far beyond anyone's idea of factual errors and constitute a form of censorship," said its director, Samantha Smoot. Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, part of the social conservative bloc on the board, defended the changes. "Promoting Christianity? That's a crime?" he asked. "America was founded on Christian principles." Asked if the public could expect swift approval of the texts, Bradley hesitated. "Never say never. ... Twenty-four hours is a long time in education," he said, adding fuel to Smoot's fear of a last-minute pitch from the right for additional changes. Board members said the debate had been healthy, producing better books and giving the public an opportunity to participate in the selection process. "It represents democracy in action at its best," said board member Joe Bernal, D-San Antonio. Bernal praised publishers for increasing minority presence in some of the books, and he called the initial lack of Hispanic representation an "error of omission." Errors are important to the board, whose role in the textbook debate is only to correct factual errors, determine if the books conform to the state curriculum, and pass judgment on the bindings. In 1995, lawmakers restricted the board's powers, leaving it "with just enough authority to constantly get us in trouble," said board member Chase Untermeyer, R-Houston. "Right now we live in this half light," Untermeyer said, "in which textbooks are the best but by no means the only example of the problems faced by having partial powers." He suggested lawmakers either restore full authority to the board or take it away altogether. Smoot agreed that something must be done, suggesting that textbook selection be given to a separate entity. "A narrow group of people is able to use this process to grandstand about their political opinions and affect which books are chosen and which are not," she said. "It's clear that a great many things about this process don't serve children."

11/14/2002
Defend Schoolchildren From Board's 'Revisions'
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Defend Schoolchildren From Board's 'Revisions'

Where are academics in the debate over textbooks for public schools? A "citizens" group is bullying textbook publishers into exorcising facts from history, government and social studies books slated for Texas students while most scholars and institutions of higher learning warm the bench. If this were a football game it would be fourth and goal. The star players should get off the bench, or we'll lose more than a game -- our children will lose out on a well-rounded education. Today and Friday, State Board of Education members are scheduled to approve social studies textbooks for Texas' 4.1 million public schoolchildren. Some of these books are being cleansed of information Texas students need to compete for admission to the nation's best colleges and universities. The omission or blurring of those facts puts our kids at a disadvantage in taking college entrance exams or law or medical school admissions tests. Should the elected education board allow this to happen, it will be dumbing down public education. Let's review two facts that Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy has identified as erroneous, and therefore, subject to revision: * Global warming. Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy pushed for textbooks to describe global warming as a theory. This comes a year after a panel of top American scientists appointed by President Bush to study the issue declared that global warming is real and getting worse. The panel's report was written by 11 atmospheric scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, including a meteorologist who for years had expressed skepticism about some of the dire predictions regarding the significance of human-caused warming. * Acid rain. Another theory, according to Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. However, that "theory" has done real damage in Franklin, N.Y., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which describes the city's Little Echo Pond as one of the most acidic lakes in the United States due to the effects of acid rain. In the face of the existing evidence about these and other issues, it seems odd -- to put it mildly -- to call global warming or acid rain "theories." If facts are desired, here are a few. A majority of the State Board of Education, with the help of their friends at Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, has circumvented a state law. After more than a decade of ideological wars over books, the Legislature stripped the education board of its power to edit content -- a power board members had abused by using it to advance a political and religious agenda. But the education board's social conservative members cleverly found a way to edit textbooks and seize authority the Legislature wisely gave to local school districts. The 1995 law only allows the board to correct information in books that is erroneous. To get around that, the board and groups such as the conservative citizens group need only claim that facts are errors to force revisions. And as long as they can muster a majority on the board, they can turn facts into errors or "theories." They are doing it with impunity. Just last week, Texas Education Commissioner Felipe Alanis and Higher Education Commissioner Don Brown visited with this editorial board to promote in part a tougher curriculum to move 300,000 more kids into college over the next decade or so. Yet they have been silent in standing up for the kind of textbooks needed to accomplish that task. We commend professors such as the University of Texas' Andrew Riggsby, who correctly characterized this process as vandalism rather than review. The University of Texas, with its army of noted scientists, researchers and legal scholars and its College of Education, should have intervened. But it has curiously remained on the sidelines as the battle over our schoolchildren's minds plays out blocks from the campus. We only hope it shows up today and Friday to stop what otherwise will be a certain victory for the board -- but a big loss for our schoolchildren.

11/14/2002
IRS Regulation Is Threat To Economy
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Press Release

IRS Regulation Is Threat To Economy

November 13, 2002 Alexandra K. Helou Office of Associate Chief Counsel (International) Internal Revenue Service CC:DOM:ITA:RU (REG-133254-02) Room 5226 P. O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station Washington, DC 20044 Dear Ms. Helou:

11/13/2002
Liberal Raleigh News and Observer Mocks CSE Pledge
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Press Release

Liberal Raleigh News and Observer Mocks CSE Pledge

11/13/2002
Who is Nancy Pelosi?
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Press Release

Who is Nancy Pelosi?

Rep. Dick Gephardt is on the way out, making way for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to become House Democrat Minority Leader. It's not an improvement.

11/13/2002
A Win for Markets
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Press Release

A Win for Markets

Last week’s Republican surprise has left pundits and news analysts hard-pressed to explain the sea change in American politics. A number of explanations—from the war with Iraq to lackluster campaigning by Democrats—have been put forward to understand an election that left Republicans in charge of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Yet, in many ways, the election may be explained best as a re-affirmation of the principles of limited government, first established by the Founders. Moving beyond the political parties to the ideas and issues that concerned the voters provides important insights into the final results as well as guideposts for the new majority.

11/13/2002
Seize the Momentum
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Press Release

Seize the Momentum

In 1998, the congressional Republicans’ midterm election strategy backfired. Tired of fighting President Clinton on issues, Republicans instead tried to make the midterm election a referendum on impeachment. Republicans lost seats – almost losing control of the House of Representatives – and Newt Gingrich resigned. Conventional wisdom held that impeachment was over. What happened next is a part of history, but also very instructive for President Bush and the new congressional majority. Less than two months after the disaster of the 1998 midterm elections, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Bill Clinton. Through a series of self-inflicted wounds Bill Clinton managed to squander the political momentum of the elections, unite his opposition and face a humiliating political and legal defeat. The lesson is that the political momentum from midterm elections, if not handled carefully, can be very short-lived.

11/13/2002
Worrisome Signs for Landrieu and the Left
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Press Release

Worrisome Signs for Landrieu and the Left

Thanks to Louisiana’s unique election format, Democrats will be able to test a new campaign strategy formulated in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s defeat. Instead of downplaying the policy differences between themselves and President Bush, they will highlight them. But because of the electorate’s disfavor for Democratic positions where there is a genuine contrast, come December 8th, the day after the Louisiana Senatorial run-off election, Democratic strategists will likely be back to square one.

11/13/2002
Same Faces, Same Issues
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Press Release

Same Faces, Same Issues

Although the midterm elections will bring 61 new Senators and Representatives to Congress, this week the same old faces are back in town. Because there is unfinished business that can’t wait until January, Congress is convening in a rare post-election “Lame Duck” session. This week, Congress will focus on the remaining appropriation bills, creating a new Homeland Security Department, moving forward on judicial nominees, passing out energy legislation stalled in conference committee, and possibly enacting terrorism insurance. Here’s a look at what could happen in the remaining days of the 107th Congress.

11/13/2002
Representative Edward Schrock Presented with Citizens for a Sound Economy’s Jefferson Award
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Press Release

Representative Edward Schrock Presented with Citizens for a Sound Economy’s Jefferson Award

Today, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) presented the Jefferson Award to Representative Edward Schrock of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District for steadfastly supporting limited government and economic liberty.

11/13/2002

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