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    State Begins Hearings On School Textbooks

    BY Matt Frazier
    by Matt Frazier on 7/18/02.

    AUSTIN - The social studies, history and government books being
    considered for Texas' 4.1 million students should be more accurate,
    more balanced and do a better job instilling U.S. values and
    freedoms, speakers told the State Board of Education on Wednesday.
    Others stressed that textbooks must properly portray the roles
    women and minorities have played in the nation's history.
    Nevertheless, many speakers at the board's first public hearing
    on proposed textbooks said the texts should remain on the state's
    "acceptable list" so individual teachers and school districts can
    choose which ones best suit their classrooms.
    They did ask for changes, however. And in most cases, they
    complained not about what was in the books, but what was left out.
    The board can only reject textbooks if factual errors are found.
    State board member Mary Helen Berlanga, who helped organize
    symposiums on the inclusion of Hispanic history in the textbooks,
    said omissions of minorities could be considered errors, because
    such omissions give students an incomplete understanding of history.
    "If they go back and make the additions, of course I would be
    satisfied," Berlanga said.
    Board Chairwoman Grace Shore said she believes the board will
    approve the proposed textbooks.
    "The public hearing gives parents the opportunity to interact
    with the publishers," Shore said during a break. "It also gives
    teachers as much information as possible when choosing textbooks
    for their class."
    The state is updating textbooks for a variety of high school
    subjects under the broad heading of "social studies," including
    U.S. history, comparative government and politics, human geography,
    psychology and sociology. English and Spanish textbooks for
    elementary and middle school students also are being reviewed.
    Publishers eager to earn the $344.7 million Texas will spend on
    textbooks this year have already been working with some concerned
    groups to correct factual errors and consider possible revisions.
    And because Texas is the nation's second-largest purchaser of
    textbooks, the board's decision will affect the education of
    students throughout the nation.
    Sixty-seven individuals and organizations signed up to speak at
    Wednesday's hearing, including state representatives and members of
    foundations and organizations that reviewed the texts. In the past,
    groups have complained about the ways textbooks portray a variety
    of subjects, including God, sex, slavery, evolution, patriotism and
    gender bias.
    State Rep. Rick Green, R-Dripping Springs, began the hearing by
    refuting the Texas Freedom Network's claim that right-wing
    conservatives are censoring Texas' textbooks while attempting to
    instill conservative values.
    Green said a majority of Texans believe that instilling values is
    the primary purpose of education.
    "If our people don't know their freedoms, how can they know if
    they have been violated?" Green asked. "You are literally on the
    front lines of freedom today."
    The Freedom Network, which started the "I Object" campaign
    against textbook censorship, did not have any speakers at the
    Most speakers said they wanted to add material to the books
    rather than remove offensive text.
    "My request would be that no book be approved for any grade that
    does not ... explain that the foundation for our republic is the
    biblical principle that our rights come from our creator," said
    Margie Raborn, with the Citizens for a Sound Economy.
    Other speakers said they wanted the books to properly portray the
    role minorities and women played in history.
    For example, one text does not recognize early Hispanic settlers,
    saying instead that Stephen F. Austin brought the first 300
    settlers to Texas. Anthony Quiroz, assistant professor of history
    at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, said the omissions could
    have long-range repercussions.
    "I encourage you to seek out books that tell a thick story that
    involves the historical actions of all Americans, including
    Mexican-Americans," Quiroz told state board members. "If we settle
    for this type of history, we will be doing our children an
    unforgivable disservice."
    Because it has been 10 years since Texas classrooms have had new
    social studies and history books, Linda Massey, a 31-year Dallas
    school district teacher, said that the new texts are needed and
    that teachers and districts should be allowed to choose which best
    serve their teaching style.
    "We are really looking forward to having new textbooks," said
    Massey, president of Citizens for Sound Economy. "They are getting
    bigger, and they are getting better. If there is a mistake after
    adoption, the teacher will correct that."
    Public hearings
    Three more public hearings on proposed textbooks will be Aug. 23,
    Sept. 11 and Nov. 14 in Austin. A final decision is expected after
    the last hearing. To register to speak or for other ways of giving
    input, go to the State Board of Education Web site,