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Stand By Our Principles

As the elections approach, conservatives need to remember what we stand for: lower taxes, less government and more freedom. Unfortunately, many politicians in Washington, Republicans and Democrats, are not legislating with these principles in mind.

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Letter to Editor

Stand By Our Principles

BY Brendan Steinhauser

As the elections approach, conservatives need to remember what we stand for: lower taxes, less government and more freedom. Unfortunately, many politicians in Washington, Republicans and Democrats, are not legislating with these principles in mind.

08/14/2006
New force in the fray on state's textbooks

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks. Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

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New force in the fray on state's textbooks

BY Melissa Ludwig

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks. Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

01/01/2003
New force in the fray on state's textbooks

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks. Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

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New force in the fray on state's textbooks

BY Melissa Ludwig

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks. Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

01/01/2003
Member Made Right Call in Voting Against Textbooks

In casting the lone vote against social studies textbooks earlier this month, State Board of Education Member Dan Montgomery not only showed courage, but followed Texas law. In 1995, the Legislature stripped board members of authority to decide content and shifted textbook decisions to local school districts. The 15-member elected board is supposed to approve all textbooks that contain at least 50 percent of curriculum standards, meet manufacturing codes and are free of factual errors. Instead of focusing on whether the books met curriculum standards, the board became consumed with whether they adhered to certain ideology or whether they adequately represented Latinos and African Americans in Texas history. The latter is a legitimate point that should have been taken up with publishers at the start of the textbook process to ensure that books complied with what is being taught in public schools. Forcing publishers to make additions at the end of the process -- other than to correct errors -- amounts to editing content. The board's long-running battle over ideology is the reason lawmakers stripped the board of its once-unlimited authority to decide textbook content. Despite the law, board members have found a clever but dubious way to circumvent the law. They declare facts to be "errors," then proceed to "correct" them. For instance, after pressure from the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, publishers changed references in books to characterize global warming as theory rather than fact, despite agreement by the scientific community that global warming is real. The board approved such revisions without input from scientists or experts regarding their validity. By spinning facts into errors, board members have put Texas' 4 million public school students at a disadvantage, especially on national tests and college entrance exams that won't use the same political lens to test students on their knowledge of economic systems, history and environmental issues. On our pages this week, Montgomery confirmed the board's improper actions on textbooks. "I talked with the president of one of the major publishers. He said he discovered long ago that the (education board) is intent on driving content, and he admitted that his company has deleted what it considers factual information and has added material deemed erroneous to appease some board members." In other words, publishers are replacing facts with errors in books that students will use for the next six years. Montgomery said he will try to halt the practice -- a noble goal that is unlikely to pass the board. We urge the Legislature to strip the board of all textbook authority so it can do no more damage to Texas students.

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Member Made Right Call in Voting Against Textbooks

In casting the lone vote against social studies textbooks earlier this month, State Board of Education Member Dan Montgomery not only showed courage, but followed Texas law. In 1995, the Legislature stripped board members of authority to decide content and shifted textbook decisions to local school districts. The 15-member elected board is supposed to approve all textbooks that contain at least 50 percent of curriculum standards, meet manufacturing codes and are free of factual errors. Instead of focusing on whether the books met curriculum standards, the board became consumed with whether they adhered to certain ideology or whether they adequately represented Latinos and African Americans in Texas history. The latter is a legitimate point that should have been taken up with publishers at the start of the textbook process to ensure that books complied with what is being taught in public schools. Forcing publishers to make additions at the end of the process -- other than to correct errors -- amounts to editing content. The board's long-running battle over ideology is the reason lawmakers stripped the board of its once-unlimited authority to decide textbook content. Despite the law, board members have found a clever but dubious way to circumvent the law. They declare facts to be "errors," then proceed to "correct" them. For instance, after pressure from the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, publishers changed references in books to characterize global warming as theory rather than fact, despite agreement by the scientific community that global warming is real. The board approved such revisions without input from scientists or experts regarding their validity. By spinning facts into errors, board members have put Texas' 4 million public school students at a disadvantage, especially on national tests and college entrance exams that won't use the same political lens to test students on their knowledge of economic systems, history and environmental issues. On our pages this week, Montgomery confirmed the board's improper actions on textbooks. "I talked with the president of one of the major publishers. He said he discovered long ago that the (education board) is intent on driving content, and he admitted that his company has deleted what it considers factual information and has added material deemed erroneous to appease some board members." In other words, publishers are replacing facts with errors in books that students will use for the next six years. Montgomery said he will try to halt the practice -- a noble goal that is unlikely to pass the board. We urge the Legislature to strip the board of all textbook authority so it can do no more damage to Texas students.

11/27/2002
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.

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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
Conservatives Want to Strip Textbooks of Facts, critics say

With the State Board of Education poised to vote on new social studies textbooks later this week, a group of teachers, parents and activists on Tuesday blasted textbook changes that they say have been made at the behest of Christian and capitalist critics. Some of the disputed changes by the books' publishers delete the suggestion that global warming and acid rain are proven scientific phenomena, that Christians accepted slavery and that the Earth is "millions of years" old, a timeline that contradicts literal interpretations of the Bible. "A small group of busybodies have used this process to wipe out facts they don't happen to care for. That's not a review; it's vandalism," Andrew Riggsby, a University of Texas classics professor, said at a Capitol news conference sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network, which seeks to keep religion out of public policy. The group and its supporters plan to send 4,000 postcards to textbook publishers and state officials urging them not to go along with the changes. But some of the groups that requested the changes accused the Texas Freedom Network of peddling its own radical political agenda and unfairly referring to an open, citizen-oriented textbook review process as censorship. "It's laughable that they have called themselves mainstream," said Peggy Venable, spokeswoman for Citizens for a Sound Economy. "After last week, it's clear that mainstream Texas citizens are fiscal conser- vatives." Venable's group pushed for textbooks to describe global warming as a theory that is not universally accepted and to omit sentences that said communism and socialism helped people. The State Board of Education reviewed and accepted public testimony earlier this fall on social studies textbooks for public schools. Before the final board vote, publishers are supposed to change factual errors that have been spotted. But the question of what, exactly, is a factual error has turned the textbook approval process into a political maelstrom and an ongoing struggle to define Texas values. Some groups, for example, say science has proved that fossil fuels date back millions of years, and others say the Bible offers a different theory and that the scientific evidence should not be treated with absolute certainty. In addition to voting on the proposed changes this week, the Board of Education will vote on whether to allow publishers to continue making changes to their textbooks beyond this week. Because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, it can dictate what other states get as publishers target their offerings for Texas. "We are tired of the religious right dictating how and what our children learn in school," Susan Moffat, the parent of a fifth-grader at Lee Elementary School in Austin, said at the Capitol news conference. "Our democracy is based on a strong separation of church and state. We do not tell others what to believe." gsusswein@statesman.com; 445-3654 (from box) By the book A sampling of some of the disputed lines in social studies textbooks being reviewed by the State Board of Education this week. Textbook excerpt: "(M)any other teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their daily lives." Critics say: Perpetuates "propaganda" for Islam. Textbook excerpt: "Acid rain damages trees and harms rivers and lakes." Critics say: Presents sentiment as fact instead of theory. Textbook excerpt: "Approximately 1 out of five people in the US does not have medical insurance. The majority of these uninsured people are children in lower income families. Because they do not have insurance, they might not be able to get some forms of medical treatment." Critics say: Provides no evidence of widespread availability of health-care options for the poor; low-income children do not represent a "majority" of the uninsured. Textbook excerpt: "Christians would later accept slavery in other contexts." Critics say: It's anti-Christian and overemphasizes U.S. role in slavery. Textbook excerpt: "In a communist system, the central government owns all property, such as farms and factories, for the benefit of its citizens." Critics say: Communism did not benefit its citizens. Sources: Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, Texas Freedom Network

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Conservatives Want to Strip Textbooks of Facts, critics say

BY Gary Susswein

With the State Board of Education poised to vote on new social studies textbooks later this week, a group of teachers, parents and activists on Tuesday blasted textbook changes that they say have been made at the behest of Christian and capitalist critics. Some of the disputed changes by the books' publishers delete the suggestion that global warming and acid rain are proven scientific phenomena, that Christians accepted slavery and that the Earth is "millions of years" old, a timeline that contradicts literal interpretations of the Bible. "A small group of busybodies have used this process to wipe out facts they don't happen to care for. That's not a review; it's vandalism," Andrew Riggsby, a University of Texas classics professor, said at a Capitol news conference sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network, which seeks to keep religion out of public policy. The group and its supporters plan to send 4,000 postcards to textbook publishers and state officials urging them not to go along with the changes. But some of the groups that requested the changes accused the Texas Freedom Network of peddling its own radical political agenda and unfairly referring to an open, citizen-oriented textbook review process as censorship. "It's laughable that they have called themselves mainstream," said Peggy Venable, spokeswoman for Citizens for a Sound Economy. "After last week, it's clear that mainstream Texas citizens are fiscal conser- vatives." Venable's group pushed for textbooks to describe global warming as a theory that is not universally accepted and to omit sentences that said communism and socialism helped people. The State Board of Education reviewed and accepted public testimony earlier this fall on social studies textbooks for public schools. Before the final board vote, publishers are supposed to change factual errors that have been spotted. But the question of what, exactly, is a factual error has turned the textbook approval process into a political maelstrom and an ongoing struggle to define Texas values. Some groups, for example, say science has proved that fossil fuels date back millions of years, and others say the Bible offers a different theory and that the scientific evidence should not be treated with absolute certainty. In addition to voting on the proposed changes this week, the Board of Education will vote on whether to allow publishers to continue making changes to their textbooks beyond this week. Because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, it can dictate what other states get as publishers target their offerings for Texas. "We are tired of the religious right dictating how and what our children learn in school," Susan Moffat, the parent of a fifth-grader at Lee Elementary School in Austin, said at the Capitol news conference. "Our democracy is based on a strong separation of church and state. We do not tell others what to believe." gsusswein@statesman.com; 445-3654 (from box) By the book A sampling of some of the disputed lines in social studies textbooks being reviewed by the State Board of Education this week. Textbook excerpt: "(M)any other teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their daily lives." Critics say: Perpetuates "propaganda" for Islam. Textbook excerpt: "Acid rain damages trees and harms rivers and lakes." Critics say: Presents sentiment as fact instead of theory. Textbook excerpt: "Approximately 1 out of five people in the US does not have medical insurance. The majority of these uninsured people are children in lower income families. Because they do not have insurance, they might not be able to get some forms of medical treatment." Critics say: Provides no evidence of widespread availability of health-care options for the poor; low-income children do not represent a "majority" of the uninsured. Textbook excerpt: "Christians would later accept slavery in other contexts." Critics say: It's anti-Christian and overemphasizes U.S. role in slavery. Textbook excerpt: "In a communist system, the central government owns all property, such as farms and factories, for the benefit of its citizens." Critics say: Communism did not benefit its citizens. Sources: Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, Texas Freedom Network

11/13/2002
Various Groups Say Publishers Willing to Alter Textbooks

As the State Board of Education ground through the second of three public hearings on proposed history and social studies texts, it became clear Friday that the dozens of publishers at the hearing were listening. Of the more than 500 points of contention brought forward by one pro-business interest group, nearly 40 percent already had been addressed by publishers, said Chris Patterson, director of education research at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The group, which paid more than $100,000 for an academic review of the texts, has posted scores of the publisher's changes in response to their criticism on their Web site. Others, from private citizens representing no one but themselves to organizations representing tens of thousands, such as the pro-free market Citizens for a Sound Economy, also reported dealing with publishers willing to alter their books to correct errors and avoid criticism. Although some board members pointed to the changing drafts of history as proof that the state's textbook adoption process improves the quality of the final text, others, such as Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, worried that the board members' grip on the content of Texas textbooks was slipping. "You are not elected, you are not appointed, you're simply people making recommendations to our board," Berlanga said, warning publishers to not be so quick to make the changes requested by anyone other than the board. Board member Alma Allen, D-Houston, agreed: "I don't want the publishers running out and making changes every time your group comes up here to speak." The publishers have the right to do what they want, board chairwoman Grace Shore, R-Longview, said. The State Board of Education only gets to vote on the final texts. "The publishers are free to meet with anyone they want and make any editorial changes they want," Shore said. Austin lawyer Joe Bill Watkins, who represents the American Association of Publishers, said publishers have always been willing to work with anyone interested in developing textbooks. But the increased interest and organization of groups, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, have required more work by publishers. "To some extent, this is what they are used to dealing with every adoption," Watkins said. "There is just more of it in this adoption, in part because it's social studies and there's just more issues." The board's decision to add an additional public hearing, scheduled for Sept. 11, has also brought out more people wanting to make a comment. In November, the board will vote on more than 150 proposed social studies and history texts, selecting which ones make the list of books from which Texas school districts may buy. Making that list means a lot to publishers. Texas will buy 4,681,500 history and social studies books and will spend about $344.7 million on the books and other materials up for review. By the time a publisher takes a book before the board, about 80 percent of the company's investment has been made. Because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, it can dictate what other states get as publisher's target their offerings for Texas.

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Various Groups Say Publishers Willing to Alter Textbooks

BY Jim Suydam

As the State Board of Education ground through the second of three public hearings on proposed history and social studies texts, it became clear Friday that the dozens of publishers at the hearing were listening. Of the more than 500 points of contention brought forward by one pro-business interest group, nearly 40 percent already had been addressed by publishers, said Chris Patterson, director of education research at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The group, which paid more than $100,000 for an academic review of the texts, has posted scores of the publisher's changes in response to their criticism on their Web site. Others, from private citizens representing no one but themselves to organizations representing tens of thousands, such as the pro-free market Citizens for a Sound Economy, also reported dealing with publishers willing to alter their books to correct errors and avoid criticism. Although some board members pointed to the changing drafts of history as proof that the state's textbook adoption process improves the quality of the final text, others, such as Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, worried that the board members' grip on the content of Texas textbooks was slipping. "You are not elected, you are not appointed, you're simply people making recommendations to our board," Berlanga said, warning publishers to not be so quick to make the changes requested by anyone other than the board. Board member Alma Allen, D-Houston, agreed: "I don't want the publishers running out and making changes every time your group comes up here to speak." The publishers have the right to do what they want, board chairwoman Grace Shore, R-Longview, said. The State Board of Education only gets to vote on the final texts. "The publishers are free to meet with anyone they want and make any editorial changes they want," Shore said. Austin lawyer Joe Bill Watkins, who represents the American Association of Publishers, said publishers have always been willing to work with anyone interested in developing textbooks. But the increased interest and organization of groups, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, have required more work by publishers. "To some extent, this is what they are used to dealing with every adoption," Watkins said. "There is just more of it in this adoption, in part because it's social studies and there's just more issues." The board's decision to add an additional public hearing, scheduled for Sept. 11, has also brought out more people wanting to make a comment. In November, the board will vote on more than 150 proposed social studies and history texts, selecting which ones make the list of books from which Texas school districts may buy. Making that list means a lot to publishers. Texas will buy 4,681,500 history and social studies books and will spend about $344.7 million on the books and other materials up for review. By the time a publisher takes a book before the board, about 80 percent of the company's investment has been made. Because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, it can dictate what other states get as publisher's target their offerings for Texas.

08/24/2002
Dozens of Texans Try to Help Write History at Textbook Hearing

Some spoke of a failure to mention the religious beliefs of the founding fathers. A busload of students from the University of Texas at Brownsville bemoaned the lack of Hispanics. One man argued that what he called the "violent nature" of Muslims should be included. Drawn by the chance to influence what the state's schoolchildren read when they open up their history and social studies books next year, dozens of Texans from across the state testified before the State Board of Education on Wednesday. In November, the board will vote on more than 150 proposed social studies and history texts, selecting which ones Texas school districts may choose from for the next six years. "I don't expect that the board will reject any of them," said board Chairwoman Grace Shore, R-Longview. As the more than 67 speakers came before the board, a general consensus emerged from the politically disparate group: The textbooks just need a little more history in them. Publishers appear to have followed the curriculum elements that the state requires, said Chris Patterson of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. But in following the state's guidelines, critics said, the books have omitted crucial aspects of history not specifically asked for by the state and lost the narrative line that makes history so compelling. "As one of our reviewers noted, these books are just one damn fact after another," Patterson said. The foundation, a pro-business group, paid nearly $100,000 for a review of the drafts of the books, which it says found more than 500 errors. There's plenty that needs to be added to the books, each of which already weigh in at about 10 pounds, said Jose Angel Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, who spoke of the need to tell students more about the influence of Spain and Hispanics in American history. "Mexico is not even discussed in the section on North America," he said, referring to a sixth-grade text on world cultures and geography. Maria Louisa Garza came from Corpus Christi to ask the board to make publishers include the names of those killed in the Alamo. As a child, Garza said, she felt bad about the Alamo. "The battle of the Alamo had always been an us-against-them thing, and I was on the wrong side," she said. But when she visited it as an adult and saw the names of the Hispanics killed in the fight against Santa Anna's tyranny, she "finally felt like a fully franchised Texan," she said. More than 20 speakers from Citizens for a Sound Economy, another pro-business group, asked that more be included about the American Revolution and capitalism. The books have too much about socialist Karl Marx and not enough about classic liberal John Locke, one said. But unlike in past years, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Texas Public Policy Foundation will not be asking that any books be rejected, both groups said. Publishers attending the meeting said they would respond in writing to all of the concerns raised at the meeting. Joe Bill Watkins, an Austin attorney who represents the American Association of Publishers, said that although it would be great to add much of what was asked for in the hearing, it's not fair to ask publishers to rewrite their books at this point. "If they've covered the (curriculum required by the state) then they've done what's required," Watkins said. If there are things that should be covered, then the Legislature needs to change its requirements, he said.

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Dozens of Texans Try to Help Write History at Textbook Hearing

BY Jim Suydam

Some spoke of a failure to mention the religious beliefs of the founding fathers. A busload of students from the University of Texas at Brownsville bemoaned the lack of Hispanics. One man argued that what he called the "violent nature" of Muslims should be included. Drawn by the chance to influence what the state's schoolchildren read when they open up their history and social studies books next year, dozens of Texans from across the state testified before the State Board of Education on Wednesday. In November, the board will vote on more than 150 proposed social studies and history texts, selecting which ones Texas school districts may choose from for the next six years. "I don't expect that the board will reject any of them," said board Chairwoman Grace Shore, R-Longview. As the more than 67 speakers came before the board, a general consensus emerged from the politically disparate group: The textbooks just need a little more history in them. Publishers appear to have followed the curriculum elements that the state requires, said Chris Patterson of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. But in following the state's guidelines, critics said, the books have omitted crucial aspects of history not specifically asked for by the state and lost the narrative line that makes history so compelling. "As one of our reviewers noted, these books are just one damn fact after another," Patterson said. The foundation, a pro-business group, paid nearly $100,000 for a review of the drafts of the books, which it says found more than 500 errors. There's plenty that needs to be added to the books, each of which already weigh in at about 10 pounds, said Jose Angel Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, who spoke of the need to tell students more about the influence of Spain and Hispanics in American history. "Mexico is not even discussed in the section on North America," he said, referring to a sixth-grade text on world cultures and geography. Maria Louisa Garza came from Corpus Christi to ask the board to make publishers include the names of those killed in the Alamo. As a child, Garza said, she felt bad about the Alamo. "The battle of the Alamo had always been an us-against-them thing, and I was on the wrong side," she said. But when she visited it as an adult and saw the names of the Hispanics killed in the fight against Santa Anna's tyranny, she "finally felt like a fully franchised Texan," she said. More than 20 speakers from Citizens for a Sound Economy, another pro-business group, asked that more be included about the American Revolution and capitalism. The books have too much about socialist Karl Marx and not enough about classic liberal John Locke, one said. But unlike in past years, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Texas Public Policy Foundation will not be asking that any books be rejected, both groups said. Publishers attending the meeting said they would respond in writing to all of the concerns raised at the meeting. Joe Bill Watkins, an Austin attorney who represents the American Association of Publishers, said that although it would be great to add much of what was asked for in the hearing, it's not fair to ask publishers to rewrite their books at this point. "If they've covered the (curriculum required by the state) then they've done what's required," Watkins said. If there are things that should be covered, then the Legislature needs to change its requirements, he said.

07/18/2002
The Battle over Texas' Textbooks

Education process It is interesting to note that those checking for flaws in potential textbooks are themselves flawed ("New books, another battle," July 10). Their claim that Rosa Parks did not sit in the middle of the bus is inaccurate. According to the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Parks sat in the front row of the "colored" section of the bus, which was behind the whites-only section. She was arrested when she refused to give up her seat in the colored section to a white man after the whites-only section filled. She did not sit in the front of the bus and the front of the colored section is arguably the middle of the bus. If the fact-checkers of our children's textbooks cannot get the facts correct, is there any real purpose to this process? The focus of improving our school systems should not be on minor errors in one tool of education, but the broader education process itself. DAVID ROBINSON Austin Get computers I read that the state of Texas will, over the next two years, spend more than $700 million on textbooks for public schools. Why? Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent every few years trying to decide which texts will be purchased. These books presented for consideration are filled with errors, omissions or worse. These same books must be replaced even more frequently now in selected subjects. These proposed texts are squabbled over, lobbied both for and against, perused by educators, hawked by publishers and yet still found to exhibit problems. I think it is time we moved the school systems in Texas in the 21st century. Schools should have a computer for every child in school, and those computers should contain their textbooks. Textbooks could consist of the same text and graphics they do now. The big plus is they could be as extensive or as brief as the educators so desired. They could continually be improved and or updated as needed. Let's get our legislators to make an investment in education of our children that will keep on paying off in years to come. NEVEL PATRICK HALEY Carrollton Unhealthy connection In the July 10 American-Statesman are two more baffling examples of the connection between right-wing Christian conservatives and anti-environment sentiment. One, a story regarding textbook selection in Texas discusses how in the past, conservative organizations previewing books have wanted to omit references to environmental degradation and endangered species, etc. In the second article, Marvin Olasky describes his trip (no doubt paid for by the oil company) to a refinery in Alaska and was pleased to find it wasn't nearly as dirty as he expected. He urged us to "dig in" and begin drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge soon. These same conservatives don't want their children polluted by any discussion of evolution but have no problem with their children drinking polluted water and breathing dirty air. The conundrum that these people should be facing is how they reconcile their stated love of God and God's creations, while bashing any attempt to educate this generation and the next about just how dire the state of this planet has become. DIANE HOGAN Austin Keeping our rights It is good that our federal and local governments are taking steps to prevent another terrorist attack. However, our civil liberties are slowly being taken away in the name of security. Our government should not have the power to hold military tribunals where defendants who are U.S. citizens cannot appeal decisions to a civilian court. Our government should not be allowed to hold military tribunals in secret. Our government should not be holding the alleged "dirty bomb" suspect in custody for an indefinite amount of time. The federal government has given enormous power to itself since Sept. 11. We need to try our best to prevent another attack. But this does not mean we should throw the Constitution out the window. And we should not throw out our system of checks and balances, either. We are made to feel unpatriotic or divisive if we bring up things like this to the government, but it is our responsibility to stand up for our rights. CHELSEA RIVERA Austin Price for security Marvin Olasky's June 26 column about the privatized social security system in Chile fails to inform us that it took a bloody military coup, thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousand exiled citizens like myself for Augusto Pinochet and others to impose such an "independence from government control." Olasky also fails to tell us that the funds in those private "libretitas" are guaranteed by all Chileans whether or not they choose to participate. For the operators of those funds, it is a profitable, risk-free business. I have lived and worked in the United States for 28 years. I own one "libretita" from 14 years of service with the Texas Employee Retirement System that will pay me a fixed pension guaranteed for life. The other half of my work life is invested in a well-managed, nonprofit mutual fund. That fund has lost about one-third of its book value in the past five years. At the rate we are going, we may get the autocratic government needed to impose such a system. RENATO ESPINOZA Austin Podiatrist power Re: July 2 article "Orthopedists denied a chance to go toe-to-toe with podiatrists": In 1986, I incurred a fracture to my left lower extremity. Various orthopedists, including an ankle specialist treated it as "a classic sprain." Their therapies included an air cast and my being told the pain was normal. In 1995, I was living in Corpus Christi and had the good fortune to become the patient of podiatrist Dr. Donald Rhodes. Based on the extensive X-ray series that he made, the fracture was at long last detected. He stated that there were also two bone chips, one the size of his thumbnail. I was casted to the knee until I healed. I will never let it be said that a foot doctor does not know enough to treat the lower ankle. More power to the podiatrists. ELSA POTTER Austin

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The Battle over Texas' Textbooks

Education process It is interesting to note that those checking for flaws in potential textbooks are themselves flawed ("New books, another battle," July 10). Their claim that Rosa Parks did not sit in the middle of the bus is inaccurate. According to the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Parks sat in the front row of the "colored" section of the bus, which was behind the whites-only section. She was arrested when she refused to give up her seat in the colored section to a white man after the whites-only section filled. She did not sit in the front of the bus and the front of the colored section is arguably the middle of the bus. If the fact-checkers of our children's textbooks cannot get the facts correct, is there any real purpose to this process? The focus of improving our school systems should not be on minor errors in one tool of education, but the broader education process itself. DAVID ROBINSON Austin Get computers I read that the state of Texas will, over the next two years, spend more than $700 million on textbooks for public schools. Why? Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent every few years trying to decide which texts will be purchased. These books presented for consideration are filled with errors, omissions or worse. These same books must be replaced even more frequently now in selected subjects. These proposed texts are squabbled over, lobbied both for and against, perused by educators, hawked by publishers and yet still found to exhibit problems. I think it is time we moved the school systems in Texas in the 21st century. Schools should have a computer for every child in school, and those computers should contain their textbooks. Textbooks could consist of the same text and graphics they do now. The big plus is they could be as extensive or as brief as the educators so desired. They could continually be improved and or updated as needed. Let's get our legislators to make an investment in education of our children that will keep on paying off in years to come. NEVEL PATRICK HALEY Carrollton Unhealthy connection In the July 10 American-Statesman are two more baffling examples of the connection between right-wing Christian conservatives and anti-environment sentiment. One, a story regarding textbook selection in Texas discusses how in the past, conservative organizations previewing books have wanted to omit references to environmental degradation and endangered species, etc. In the second article, Marvin Olasky describes his trip (no doubt paid for by the oil company) to a refinery in Alaska and was pleased to find it wasn't nearly as dirty as he expected. He urged us to "dig in" and begin drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge soon. These same conservatives don't want their children polluted by any discussion of evolution but have no problem with their children drinking polluted water and breathing dirty air. The conundrum that these people should be facing is how they reconcile their stated love of God and God's creations, while bashing any attempt to educate this generation and the next about just how dire the state of this planet has become. DIANE HOGAN Austin Keeping our rights It is good that our federal and local governments are taking steps to prevent another terrorist attack. However, our civil liberties are slowly being taken away in the name of security. Our government should not have the power to hold military tribunals where defendants who are U.S. citizens cannot appeal decisions to a civilian court. Our government should not be allowed to hold military tribunals in secret. Our government should not be holding the alleged "dirty bomb" suspect in custody for an indefinite amount of time. The federal government has given enormous power to itself since Sept. 11. We need to try our best to prevent another attack. But this does not mean we should throw the Constitution out the window. And we should not throw out our system of checks and balances, either. We are made to feel unpatriotic or divisive if we bring up things like this to the government, but it is our responsibility to stand up for our rights. CHELSEA RIVERA Austin Price for security Marvin Olasky's June 26 column about the privatized social security system in Chile fails to inform us that it took a bloody military coup, thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousand exiled citizens like myself for Augusto Pinochet and others to impose such an "independence from government control." Olasky also fails to tell us that the funds in those private "libretitas" are guaranteed by all Chileans whether or not they choose to participate. For the operators of those funds, it is a profitable, risk-free business. I have lived and worked in the United States for 28 years. I own one "libretita" from 14 years of service with the Texas Employee Retirement System that will pay me a fixed pension guaranteed for life. The other half of my work life is invested in a well-managed, nonprofit mutual fund. That fund has lost about one-third of its book value in the past five years. At the rate we are going, we may get the autocratic government needed to impose such a system. RENATO ESPINOZA Austin Podiatrist power Re: July 2 article "Orthopedists denied a chance to go toe-to-toe with podiatrists": In 1986, I incurred a fracture to my left lower extremity. Various orthopedists, including an ankle specialist treated it as "a classic sprain." Their therapies included an air cast and my being told the pain was normal. In 1995, I was living in Corpus Christi and had the good fortune to become the patient of podiatrist Dr. Donald Rhodes. Based on the extensive X-ray series that he made, the fracture was at long last detected. He stated that there were also two bone chips, one the size of his thumbnail. I was casted to the knee until I healed. I will never let it be said that a foot doctor does not know enough to treat the lower ankle. More power to the podiatrists. ELSA POTTER Austin

07/17/2002
Why Volunteers Enlist In Textbook Wars

Unemployed consultant Bill Peacock is a foot soldier in the seasonal clash of cultures that marks the state's adoption of textbooks. Driven by what he saw as an anti-business, anti-Christian bias in the textbook publishing industry, Peacock is taking advantage of time between jobs to scour seven proposed economics textbooks on behalf of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy. "Some of the things I've seen in textbooks have kind of made me stop and pause," Peacock said, referring to passages that he says speak kindly of socialism and communism. One example: a sentence in a social studies book for sixth-graders stating that in a socialist system, the government runs companies "for the good of the people, not profit." Like Peacock, Austin attorney Phil Durst is also volunteering to hit the books children may end up reading. Durst, however, is motivated by the hundreds of people screening books for groups such as Citizens for a Sound Economy. "The religious right continues to use its political clout to make textbooks more religious and conservative," said Durst, who will be reviewing books for the Texas Freedom Network. Hundreds of other people, from a variety of backgrounds and political stripes, are doing the same in preparation for Wednesday, when the State Board of Education will hold its first public hearing on more than 150 proposed social studies and history books. Those books are approved every six years. In other years, the state considers other subjects. The board will approve the textbooks in November and will purchase 4,681,500 of them for the state's schoolchildren to use next school year. The stakes are high for textbook publishers as well. The state will spend $344.7 million on the textbooks up for review, and because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, what publishers produce for the Texas market is what children in many other states are likely to read. Different causes Among the concerned parties is a coalition of eight nonprofit groups, who have a crew of volunteer textbook screeners working for the only pay they get: little gems of perceived bias or incorrect information mined from hours of digging through textbooks hundreds of pages long. The coalition, organized by Citizens for a Sound Economy, includes the Eagle Forum, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Gabler Group and the Reason Foundation. Also involved in the review is the Texas Federation of Republican Women. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, another pro-business, limited-government advocacy group, hired 16 scholars to review texts. Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said reviewers are drawn by a common interest. "Really, who's mostly involved are parents and taxpayers who want to make sure what we feel is important is in there," Venable said. "We've got some people who don't know where to start. We've got experts; some are experts in the Civil War -- or 'the war between the states,' as they like to call it -- some are experts in the Second Amendment. We've got teachers who will be teaching from these books." Venable said reviewers such as Peacock aren't given marching orders, but they are given extensive readings on how to spot bias and review U.S. history material, among other things. About 100 volunteers from the Texas Freedom Network, a group that seeks to maintain a separation of church and state, are also screening textbooks -- with the goal of simply being prepared to object to changes suggested by the other groups. "For too many years now, a small but vocal group of people has controlled the textbook adoption process in Texas," said Samantha Publishers prepare All sides in the Texas textbook battle claim popular support. All sides claim the moral high ground. And publishers must listen to everyone involved as they work to get their draft books approved, said Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Pearson Prentice Hall. "They all deserve to be heard," she said. "Texas requires it." For the textbook publishing industry, this is a dicey time of the year, said Joe Bill Watkins, an Austin lawyer who represents the American Association of Publishers. About 80 percent of the work on a textbook is done before a publisher can go before the state board to try to make the sale. Unsuccessfully negotiating the ideological minefield that is the state's textbook adoption process can be costly, he said. "Most of these publishers have been in the business for decades. They are businesspeople, not ideologues," he said. "They realize that they cannot meet every viewpoint, but they try to present materials that cover what lawmakers say Texas schoolchildren should learn, and they try to present materials that are factually accurate and balanced." In 1995, legislators passed a law attempting to hobble the social activists who have made the adoption of Texas textbooks a priority in their annual efforts. The law states that the board could reject books only if the books fail to cover the material state lawmakers say must be taught or if the books have physical defects or factual inaccuracies. That law hasn't dampened anyone's enthusiasm, however. Already, publishers have shown that they are listening. Some have sent early copies of their texts to groups such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, soliciting their views and making changes. And Pearson Prentice Hall has pulled one book from consideration. "Out of Many," an advanced-placement U.S. history text that Pearson Prentice Hall sells to many colleges, was pulled after Grace Shore, chairwoman of the State Board of Education, noticed a passage about rampant prostitution in Wild West towns. Shore said she felt the mention of prostitution wasn't appropriate for juniors in high school. Most problems that have been brought forward so far are much less sexy, but no less contentious. In one book that Peacock reviewed, the author explains socialism to 12-year-olds: "In a socialist system, the government owns most of the basic industries. It runs them for the good of the people, not profit," according to Pearson Prentice Hall's sixth-grade social studies offering, "World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures." Embedded in these two sentences are two reasons Peacock is spending his free time reading textbooks when he and his wife don't yet have any children. Peacock, who holds an MBA but considers economics a hobby, says the phrasing implies that for-profit industries cannot be run for the good of the people. The statement also assumes that a socialist government can actually use property for the good of the people, "when, in fact, that this is what is at the heart of the debate over socialism," he said. That example also points to the larger issue that makes this year's textbook battle one of the most contentious ever, according to publishing insiders: Although members of the State Board of Education can give a thumbs down only because of factual or manufacturing errors, there are often no right or wrong answers in social studies and history.

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Why Volunteers Enlist In Textbook Wars

BY Jim Suydam

Unemployed consultant Bill Peacock is a foot soldier in the seasonal clash of cultures that marks the state's adoption of textbooks. Driven by what he saw as an anti-business, anti-Christian bias in the textbook publishing industry, Peacock is taking advantage of time between jobs to scour seven proposed economics textbooks on behalf of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy. "Some of the things I've seen in textbooks have kind of made me stop and pause," Peacock said, referring to passages that he says speak kindly of socialism and communism. One example: a sentence in a social studies book for sixth-graders stating that in a socialist system, the government runs companies "for the good of the people, not profit." Like Peacock, Austin attorney Phil Durst is also volunteering to hit the books children may end up reading. Durst, however, is motivated by the hundreds of people screening books for groups such as Citizens for a Sound Economy. "The religious right continues to use its political clout to make textbooks more religious and conservative," said Durst, who will be reviewing books for the Texas Freedom Network. Hundreds of other people, from a variety of backgrounds and political stripes, are doing the same in preparation for Wednesday, when the State Board of Education will hold its first public hearing on more than 150 proposed social studies and history books. Those books are approved every six years. In other years, the state considers other subjects. The board will approve the textbooks in November and will purchase 4,681,500 of them for the state's schoolchildren to use next school year. The stakes are high for textbook publishers as well. The state will spend $344.7 million on the textbooks up for review, and because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, what publishers produce for the Texas market is what children in many other states are likely to read. Different causes Among the concerned parties is a coalition of eight nonprofit groups, who have a crew of volunteer textbook screeners working for the only pay they get: little gems of perceived bias or incorrect information mined from hours of digging through textbooks hundreds of pages long. The coalition, organized by Citizens for a Sound Economy, includes the Eagle Forum, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Gabler Group and the Reason Foundation. Also involved in the review is the Texas Federation of Republican Women. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, another pro-business, limited-government advocacy group, hired 16 scholars to review texts. Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said reviewers are drawn by a common interest. "Really, who's mostly involved are parents and taxpayers who want to make sure what we feel is important is in there," Venable said. "We've got some people who don't know where to start. We've got experts; some are experts in the Civil War -- or 'the war between the states,' as they like to call it -- some are experts in the Second Amendment. We've got teachers who will be teaching from these books." Venable said reviewers such as Peacock aren't given marching orders, but they are given extensive readings on how to spot bias and review U.S. history material, among other things. About 100 volunteers from the Texas Freedom Network, a group that seeks to maintain a separation of church and state, are also screening textbooks -- with the goal of simply being prepared to object to changes suggested by the other groups. "For too many years now, a small but vocal group of people has controlled the textbook adoption process in Texas," said Samantha Publishers prepare All sides in the Texas textbook battle claim popular support. All sides claim the moral high ground. And publishers must listen to everyone involved as they work to get their draft books approved, said Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Pearson Prentice Hall. "They all deserve to be heard," she said. "Texas requires it." For the textbook publishing industry, this is a dicey time of the year, said Joe Bill Watkins, an Austin lawyer who represents the American Association of Publishers. About 80 percent of the work on a textbook is done before a publisher can go before the state board to try to make the sale. Unsuccessfully negotiating the ideological minefield that is the state's textbook adoption process can be costly, he said. "Most of these publishers have been in the business for decades. They are businesspeople, not ideologues," he said. "They realize that they cannot meet every viewpoint, but they try to present materials that cover what lawmakers say Texas schoolchildren should learn, and they try to present materials that are factually accurate and balanced." In 1995, legislators passed a law attempting to hobble the social activists who have made the adoption of Texas textbooks a priority in their annual efforts. The law states that the board could reject books only if the books fail to cover the material state lawmakers say must be taught or if the books have physical defects or factual inaccuracies. That law hasn't dampened anyone's enthusiasm, however. Already, publishers have shown that they are listening. Some have sent early copies of their texts to groups such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, soliciting their views and making changes. And Pearson Prentice Hall has pulled one book from consideration. "Out of Many," an advanced-placement U.S. history text that Pearson Prentice Hall sells to many colleges, was pulled after Grace Shore, chairwoman of the State Board of Education, noticed a passage about rampant prostitution in Wild West towns. Shore said she felt the mention of prostitution wasn't appropriate for juniors in high school. Most problems that have been brought forward so far are much less sexy, but no less contentious. In one book that Peacock reviewed, the author explains socialism to 12-year-olds: "In a socialist system, the government owns most of the basic industries. It runs them for the good of the people, not profit," according to Pearson Prentice Hall's sixth-grade social studies offering, "World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures." Embedded in these two sentences are two reasons Peacock is spending his free time reading textbooks when he and his wife don't yet have any children. Peacock, who holds an MBA but considers economics a hobby, says the phrasing implies that for-profit industries cannot be run for the good of the people. The statement also assumes that a socialist government can actually use property for the good of the people, "when, in fact, that this is what is at the heart of the debate over socialism," he said. That example also points to the larger issue that makes this year's textbook battle one of the most contentious ever, according to publishing insiders: Although members of the State Board of Education can give a thumbs down only because of factual or manufacturing errors, there are often no right or wrong answers in social studies and history.

07/15/2002

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