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Revisionaries:How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.


Battles over textbooks are nothing new, especially in Texas, where bitter skirmishes regularly erupt over everything from sex education to phonics and new math. But never before has the board’s right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the state’s standards. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”

Until recently, Texas’s influence was balanced to some degree by the more-liberal pull of California, the nation’s largest textbook market. But its economy is in such shambles that California has put off buying new books until at least 2014. This means that McLeroy and his ultraconservative crew have unparalleled power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.


...


On the global front, Barton and company want textbooks to play up clashes with Islamic cultures, particularly where Muslims were the aggressors, and to paint them as part of an ongoing battle between the West and Muslim extremists.
Barton argues, for instance, that the Barbary wars, a string of skirmishes over piracy that pitted America against Ottoman vassal states in the 1800s, were the “original war against Islamic Terrorism.” What’s more, the group aims to give history a pro-Republican slant—the most obvious example being their push to swap the term “democratic” for “republican” when describing our system of government. Barton, who was hired by the GOP to do outreach to black churches in the run-up to the 2004 election, has argued elsewhere that African Americans owe their civil rights almost entirely to Republicans and that, given the “atrocious” treatment blacks have gotten at the hands of Democrats, “it might be much more appropriate that … demands for reparations were made to the Democrat Party rather than to the federal government.” He is trying to shoehorn this view into textbooks, partly by shifting the focus of black history away from the civil rights era to the post-Reconstruction period, when blacks were friendlier with Republicans.

Barton and Peter Marshall initially tried to purge the standards of key figures of the civil rights era, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall, though they were forced to back down amid a deafening public uproar. They have since resorted to a more subtle tack; while they concede that people like Martin Luther King Jr. deserve a place in history, they argue that they shouldn’t be given credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.” Ergo, any rights people of color have were handed to them by whites—in his view, mostly white Republican men. MORE

Yo. This shit is SERIOUS. Hell needs to be raised.

Date: 2010-01-07 11:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paradox-dragon.livejournal.com
I am a teacher in Texas. We have been tearing our hair about this shit for months (well, some of us) and it is awful. The state of our textbooks is already deplorable, we don't need to make them worse.

Edited because I can't use verbs.
Edited Date: 2010-01-08 12:05 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-01-08 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
Is there anything that can be done? Contacted the NAACP? Color of Change? Relevant Latino orgs? Any Congressmen that can raise a stink? Pressure raised on the publishers? Teachers banding together to say that they aint gonna teach those texts? Teachers educating parents with sense? Where're the liberals I keep hearing about in Austin?

Date: 2010-01-08 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paradox-dragon.livejournal.com
It will probably not surprise you to learn that getting anything done about textbooks is an uphill battle.

First of all, there was a huge stink about Round One of this whole thing, when they tried to take all the civil rights figures out of the books, and we got that more or less stopped. But now Barton is still at it, and the public is kind of over the whole issue. No one wants to care about it anymore. Teachers care, but unsurprisingly no one gives a fuck what we think. It's a lot easier to rally around "They're taking MLK out of the history books!" than "The ways in which they are teaching about MLK are creepy and racist!" because most people who actually care about education in Texas are, well, creepy and racist. We have tons of parents and school board members fighting to get prayer in and evolution out, so a lot of time is spent combatting those people.

Also, teachers are extremely fireable in Texas. We don't have tenure or union support or anything (I give you this gem for your perusal), so it's not easy to organize, especially in districts that are heavily conservative. So even if we did stage a boycott, it would probably be Austin, as you mentioned, and maybe a couple other cities, and nowhere else, and since textbooks are chosen at a state (not a local) level, it's fairly futile. I know a lot of people (myself included) who have written to our reps, but I don't know that that will have much effect.

I doubt the publishers can be pressured. Every liberal state or district in the union could stop buying their books, and they'd probably still make more money off Texas, so they're going to do what they're told, especially with the economy tanked.

Also, I would like to really impress upon you how incredibly terrible and irrelevant our textbooks already are. We are talking schools that haven't gotten new science textbooks in nearly a decade, schools that can't afford a textbook for every student, schools that don't allow kids to take their books home because they can't afford new ones if they lose them, etc. I know teachers who don't assign homework because they aren't allowed to send books home. Books that still endorse the Thanksgiving myth and talk about how African Americans are better off because of slavery. Not to mention that most educational research indicates that textbooks are pretty much the worst way to teach anything anyway. But anyway. My point is that, as horrible as what Barton is proposing will be, it is not as if he is adulterating a pure and unbiased source of information. He is heaping shit onto an already large pile of shit. Which is no reason not to fight it, obviously. I'm just saying that the textbook problem has become something most sensible people won't touch with a ten-foot pole, leaving us vulnerable to twits like Barton.

This all sounds very apathetic and defeatist on my part, I guess. I don't mean to say that nothing can be done. It's mostly that no one knows how to get anything done.

More about the instructional materials adoption process here: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/textbooks/adoptprocess/

If you come across any action that can be taken, let me know, yeah? I will spread it around. But as it is, I'm honestly a bit lost as to what can be done.

Date: 2010-01-08 01:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
Oh dear. If Texas is a majority POC state, then, there is no community organizing or such? Or are they too poor and caught up in survival and just not knowing whats going on so they can't fight back?

Date: 2010-01-08 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paradox-dragon.livejournal.com
Many of the POC in Texas are immigrants, many undocumented, many first generation, many with limited English proficiency. Which isn't to say that there's no community organizing, but yeah, a lot of them are in survival mode. Also, schools here tend to be heavily segregated (and of course funded by property tax) so the schools with the worst funding, resources, and textbooks are also the ones with the least power and the least access to outside materials, and so the most dependent on the shitty textbooks and state funding. They're also the ones most likely to get shut down because of test scores and the ones with the highest teacher turnover. It's really bad. I mean, it's really, really bad.

I am going to walk to UT tomorrow and talk to some people. There's an institute of Latin American studies and an Hispanic law initiative of some kind, I think, so they may be able to suggest a course of action.

Date: 2010-01-09 04:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paradox-dragon.livejournal.com
So it looks like several people from UT and some organizations from Austin will be going to the hearings on January 14 to testify, and I will be going with them to observe and support. LULAC is also involved, and a couple of other orgs according to the lady at UT.

Also, my current rep on the State Board of Education will not be running for reelection (thank all that's holy--this is "public schools are tools of perversion we are fighting a culture war!" Cynthia Dunbar) but she's endorsed a successor. But there's a Democrat who looks pretty good (she seems to be running mainly on the premise that we should all hate Dunbar, which is not the worst thing ever), an Independent I can't find anything about, and a Republican who looks pretty moderate. But it looks like people are actually starting to notice that the SBOE is corrupt and evil, so maybe things will be changing for the better.

Sorry to keep spamming you about this topic. Your post just reminded me how utterly fucked this all is, so I'm kind of up in arms about the whole thing.

Date: 2010-01-09 05:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
oh I don't mind at all. I am composing a letter to send to Color of Change to see if they can help. I really appreciate the updates, feel free to continue! These people need to be kicked the hell out.

Date: 2010-01-09 05:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paradox-dragon.livejournal.com
Oh, let me know how it goes with Color of Change! These people do need to be kicked out, preferably to a location where they can never influence anything again. I knew they were bad, but I didn't actually realize to what degree until I started digging deeper over the last couple of days. I am really taken aback at how far under the radar the SBOE elections and decisions have been flying; I barely know anything about them, and I'm a teacher (albeit a really new one). Informal polling of my acquaintances about what they know about the topic yields a consensus of "not a fucking clue" so far.

Date: 2010-01-08 12:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] claws-n-stripes.livejournal.com
Why can't they just fucking secede? Seriously, having Texas is doing more harm than good.

Date: 2010-01-08 12:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
We won't allow them to.

Date: 2010-01-08 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] claws-n-stripes.livejournal.com
I think we should rethink that policy and immediately levy sanctions against them. For being Texas.

Date: 2010-01-08 01:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
The sanctions will hit the Poc worse. I think that you may not be aware that Texas is a POC majority state. I just found that out, actually. Its time for community organizing.
Edited Date: 2010-01-08 01:32 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-01-08 02:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] claws-n-stripes.livejournal.com
Whoa, I didn't know that! And you're right. A majority POC state ought to be in POC hands anyway.

Date: 2010-01-08 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fa-ikaika.livejournal.com
Don't mess with texas because the stupid messed it up already.

Date: 2010-01-08 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
Something needs to be done to clean up the mess though.

Date: 2010-01-08 04:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fa-ikaika.livejournal.com
Agreed. But until you get all those conservative snowbirds outta there, they're gonna be hard to shift.

OTOH I do think we're looking at the last gasp of old timey white supremacists. Which is not to say that the problem's solved: They're already looking to recruit a whole new generation of PoC stooges like they did in Hawai`i, but the writing's on the wall for those who want to resuscitate Dixie. I agree they're taking a lot of poor folks down with them, and that needs to be mitigated.

Date: 2010-01-08 08:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blamebrampton.livejournal.com
Actually, it is more honest to say that your government is republican rather than democratic, votes did not count for much in 2000, after all ...

Date: 2010-01-08 09:07 am (UTC)
ext_6366: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)
From: [identity profile] the-willow.insanejournal.com (from livejournal.com)
http://tfninsider.org/

PS

Date: 2010-01-08 09:13 am (UTC)
ext_6366: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)
From: [identity profile] the-willow.insanejournal.com (from livejournal.com)
Look up the links to quotes about the process (I've been following since last year and actually just perused a set of sites last night). The quote that hit me hardest was "Overrrepresentation of minority figures"

Yeah, that's right. More than one, is suddenly overrepresentation.

Not to mention all the bullshit about 'A Multiculural Agenda' and 'A Focus On Negatives Instead Of American Exceptionalism'.

I told my little sister if she applied to a college in Texas, I would beat her. I don't care what her southern family members say.

Re: PS

Date: 2010-01-08 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
considering the fact that i am finally finishing off when and where i enter, and just got through what hell and fire black people and some of their white allies endured to get the civil rights bill passed? i want to wring necks.

Re: PS

Date: 2010-01-08 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
the part where men passed the right to vote for women is also headdesk inducing. Seriously? with a straight face?

Re: PS

Date: 2010-01-08 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
um. thats me.

Date: 2010-01-09 02:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paradox-dragon.livejournal.com
Texas Freedom Network blog syndicated for anyone who wants it:

[livejournal.com profile] txfreedom

Date: 2010-01-09 02:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unusualmusic.livejournal.com
cool! thanks

Date: 2010-01-08 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zahrawithaz.livejournal.com
This is truly horrifying. As someone with a lot of publishing experience who worked, briefly (I quiet before my five-month contract expired), in the textbook industry, I have to echo the completely outsized power that Texas has. It's completely insane for certain jurisdictions (including California and Iowa) to hold sway over the entire country, but they do. (We literally had to meet "ink allowances" per page on workbooks, because of what these schools require parents to pay for both paper and photocopy toner.)

I too am at a loss for how to deal with this, though.

Date: 2010-01-08 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
HOLY CRAP.

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