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Critics Charge Right Wing Influencing the Textbooks Used in Schools

BY Kevin Tibbles
by Kevin Tibbles on 7/26/02.

There's a new debate over what high school students should be reading in class. Parents and other citizens in Texas have been targeting various textbooks, accusing them of containing messages with a liberal slant. And as NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports, any changes in that state's books would likely affect students across the country.
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. 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.'
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 opposing viewpoints were often presented as well, they disagreed with those, and then went on a witch hunt to find--to--you know, to--basically, to--to burn this book at the stake.
TIBBLES: 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.