Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

December 30, 2010

Virginia Social Studies Textbook Askew

Filed under: Racism,Right Wing Agenda,Textbooks — millerlf @ 2:17 pm

Error-filled textbooks prompt Va. to call for revamped approval process

By Kevin Sieff Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reports of extensive errors in Virginia social studies textbooks prompted state education officials on Wednesday to propose revamping the approval process to prevent the issuing of flawed textbooks. Fairfax County officials also said they may discontinue using one of the books.

The new state procedures would require that publishers hire context experts and provide extensive new documentation for claims in their textbooks. Education Department staff also would do more-detailed reviews before passing the books to the small groups of classroom teachers who traditionally have reviewed them, according to a statement from Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright.

“Virginia students deserve textbooks that reflect the quality of the commonwealth’s nationally recognized history and social science standards, and as the errors found by the reviewers clearly show, the review process must be improved,” Wright said.

Proposed changes would require the Virginia Board of Education’s approval.

The Education Department began increasing its scrutiny of textbooks after The Washington Post reported in October that one provided to fourth-graders, “Our Virginia: Past and Present,” included a controversial claim that thousands of African American soldiers fought for the South during the Civil War. The claim is often made by Confederate heritage groups but rejected by most historians. That book’s author, Joy Masoff, has since apologized for that problem, as has the publisher, Five Ponds Press of Weston, Conn.

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June 8, 2010

Vote Over, But Debate on Texas Textbook Adoption Continues

Filed under: Textbooks — millerlf @ 11:57 am

Some Lawmakers Seeking to Rein In Texas Board

By Erik W. Robelen

You don’t have to be an education policy wonk to have heard a little about the goings-on at the Texas board of education lately.

The 15-member elected body drew national attention as a bloc of staunch conservatives largely succeeded in putting its stamp on a revised set of social studies standards. The debate was marked by tussles over such matters as the separation of church and state, the representation of minority figures and the role of discrimination in U.S. history, and, more broadly, whether the school board’s conservatives were seeking to infuse the standards with a particular political ideology.

The voting may be over, but the debate continues, and questions remain about the future of the standards, and of the board itself.

Bill White, the 2010 Democratic candidate for governor, is among those calling for the standards to be revisited next year. At that time, the board will have at least four new members because of retirements and primary defeats, with two of its most outspoken conservatives vacating their seats. Some observers suggest, based on the recent Texas primaries, that the influence of the board’s social conservatives may be diminished come January.

Meanwhile, some Democratic state lawmakers who are upset by the board’s actions say they will seek either to rein in its authority over academic standards and textbook adoptions or abolish the panel altogether.

“This used to be a little sleepy corner of government that not a lot of people paid attention to,” said Dan Quinn, the communications director for the Texas Freedom Network, which has been a fierce critic of the board. “Now, I think a lot of people are paying attention to how much damage this board can do when it’s under the control of political extremists.”

But Jonathan M. Seinz, the director of legislative affairs at the Liberty Institute, a Plano, Texas-based organization that backs the new standards, says criticism of them is “way overblown.”

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May 17, 2010

California Bill Will Review Texas Textbook Changes

Filed under: Textbooks — millerlf @ 1:42 pm

California may soon take a stand against proposed changes to social studies textbooks ordered by the Texas school board, as a way to prevent them from being incorporated in California texts.

Legislation by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, seeks to protect the nation’s largest public school population from the revised social studies curriculum approved in March by the Texas Board of Education. Critics say if the changes are incorporated into textbooks, they will be historically inaccurate and dismissive of the contributions of minorities.

The Texas recommendations, which face a final vote by the Republican-dominated board on May 21, include adding language saying the country’s Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles and a new section on “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s.” That would include positive references to the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association and the Contract with America, the congressional GOP manifesto from the 1990s.

The amendments to the state’s curriculum standards also minimize Thomas Jefferson’s role in world and U.S. history because he advocated the separation of church and state, and require that students learn about “the unintended consequences” of affirmative action and Title IX, the landmark federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs and activities.

States that place the largest textbook orders have traditionally held significant sway over the materials used in American classrooms. Texas is the country’s second-largest textbook buyer, behind California, which has more than 6.2 million public school students in grades K-12.

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