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Sculptures In Photo Open a Textbook Cover-Up Case

BY Terrence Stutz
by Terrence Stutz on 7/26/02.

AUSTIN - The male sculptures atop the New York Stock Exchange building facade have never looked so - clothed.
The publisher of a new economics textbook for Texas schools has decided that nude male sculptures are inappropriate for high school students - even the ones that adorn the nerve center of U.S. business and commerce.
On the cover of Holt, Rinehart and Winston's new high school economics book is a photograph of the front of the New York Stock Exchange, including the sculptured relief that rests on top of the building's marble columns.
Some of the actual male figures in the relief are naked - but not in the photograph, which depicts the sculptures covered with skirts.
Inside the book, a smaller picture shows the male images as they really are - au naturel.
A spokesman for Holt, Rinehart and Winston played down the book cover, noting that the sculptures in question are less than an inch high in the photograph.
"It wasn't a big issue with us. We considered this a minor change," said Rick Blake, vice president of communications and government affairs for Harcourt Education, which owns Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Mr. Blake said the book's editors wanted the well-recognized entrance to the stock exchange building on the cover because it is such a "strong image," particularly for students studying the U.S. economy.
At the same time, he said, they felt that "nude figures on the cover of a high school textbook was not such a good idea. There would always be the temptation for kids to damage the cover."
The company has received no complaints about the book cover. "As things now stand, we have no plans to change it," Mr. Blake said.
A group that has accused social conservatives of censoring textbooks said the altered photograph should come as no surprise.
"The flap over the statues may be humorous, but the power that would-be censors hold over Texas textbooks is dead serious," said Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network.
"For decades now, a handful of activists from the far right have had a stranglehold over textbook approval in Texas. Because they can credibly threaten to raise a stink and have a book rejected, some publishers are turning to self-censorship to appease these groups."
Taking issue with the freedom network was Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, a conservative organization whose members have reviewed textbooks under consideration this year.
"I don't know of anyone who has even mentioned this book," Ms. Venable said. "But it is true that textbook publishers are paying more attention to citizens and parents because we are their customers.
"When teachers and a small elite group like the Freedom Network squeal about our efforts, it just means they have lost control of the situation," she said.
The high school economics textbook is one of several proposed social studies books up for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education will make a final decision in November.