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State Begins Hearings On School Textbooks

BY Matt Frazier
07/18/2002
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
hearing.
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,
www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/input.