Letters to the Editor Concerning the Textbook Debate

Letters from our readers


Sunday, November 24, 2002


Textbook irony

The irony about the would-be textbook censors at Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy — whom the editorial board correctly excoriates — is that they profess, on the one hand, a commitment to free markets, yet, on the other, want to increase the monopoly power of government, through the State Board of Education, to edit and select textbooks.

The reason is obvious: If the know-nothings had to defend their views in an open marketplace, going from community to community pressing their censorship campaign, they would be doomed to failure.

Far better to exploit centralized government power in an effort to impose their backward views on a diverse population of more than 18 million Texans as a whole.

BRIAN LEITER Director Law & Philosophy Program The

University of Texas at Austin

Good science

It’s no wonder that Texas ranks near last in public education when the state board appointed to oversee it couldn’t pass a seventh-grade science test.

Many believe the word “fact” implies that something can be known with absolute certainty to be true, when science teaches us the exact opposite.

Absolute certainty is a pipe dream; a fact is “true” only to the extent that the most objective evidence has been presented to confirm it.

Science regards biological evolution as fact only to that extent, and Darwin’s explanation about its mechanisms dominates the paradigm only because all other competing theories have paled in comparison.

Opponents of good science often ignore the best truth detector ever devised — the scientific method.

Of course, the fundamentalists on the State Board of Education are dead against teaching the type of critical thinking that good science requires, as it threatens their narrow view of the world and the foundations of their ideology.


Doing what’s right

The editorial of Nov. 14, where the editorial board tried to rally legions of liberals in Austin (assuming that there are legions of liberals left in Austin) to go to the hearings of the State Board of Education on textbook revisions, could have been written by the Texas Freedom Network.

The editorial’s biased characterization of Citizens for a Sound Economy was exactly how the TFN would have phrased it. Why would you put the word citizens in quotation marks? CSE is truly composed of citizens. I am a member, and I am indeed a “citizen.” Like thousands of members of CSE in this state, I do not have a “religious” agenda, but I am concerned about the liberal bias that has existed in the textbooks that my children have read over the years.

Thank God that the American-Statesman editorial board cannot intimidate, much less influence, the State Board of Education.


To the Editor:

I am appalled at the level of vitriol indulged in by Brian Leiter whose
campaign of character assassination reached the letters column of the
American Statesman Nov. 24. Leiter viciously attacks Citizens for a
Sound Economy for the high crime of having and expressing an opinion
about textbooks submitted for approval to the State Board of Education.
He objects that CSE wants our textbooks to encourge an appreciation of
our nation’s history and the ideas that led to its founding as well as
the importance of freedom in advancing a humane culture and a productive

I have heard the director of CSE, Peggy Venable, discuss this issue several times on the radio. On each occasion she talked about the topics
— the books — and has never resorted to name-calling and ad hominen attacks. She never called anyone a “know-nothing” or accused them of
censorship. By contrast, Leiter’s ad hominem fulminations embarrass his

And, in case it matters to Leiter or anyone, the law supports CSE’s
position: (TEC ? 28.002(h). “The State Board of Education and each
school district shall foster the continuation of the tradition of
teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system
in regular subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of
textbooks. A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to
prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of
patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society
with appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and
national heritage.”

We are entitled to wonder why Prof. Leiter finds that so objectionable.

Bob Ward