Texas Textbook Lunacy: California Backlash

ALL of you know about the collective madness that drove the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) to launch a maniacal assault on science education (especially the theory of evolution) and also on social studies. We weren’t disturbed by some of their conservative political tweaks; but along with the rest of the civilized world we were stunned by their mindless assault on science (see Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre: It’s Over), and on the Enlightenment — typified by their savaging of Thomas Jefferson (see Texas Education: Embracing the Dark Ages).

The Texas SBOE members said they were doing those crazy things to be true to their conservatism; but mandating theocracy and ignorance isn’t conservative — it’s insane. There’s plenty of ideological madness in both political parties, but what happened in Texas was evidence that a deranged theocratic coup has taken control of that state’s Republican party.

After the dust settled, the concern was widely expressed about the size of the Texas textbook market, and the fear that this would influence textbook publishers to provide texts for all states based on the Texas standards. In one post last year (Afterthoughts: the Texas Textbook Travesty) we reported some news we found in the Christian Science Monitor:

Other states are watching closely. A state senate committee in California has passed a bill that would ensure no California textbooks contain any Texas-driven changes.

We’ve been wondering what happened with that. We found a couple of news articles, but the papers with those stories forbid copying any of their content without permission. That’s inconvenient, but it only encourages us to provide better information than they do. We went directly to the website of the California Legislature for information on SB 1451.

Clicking on the “status” link we learn that the bill was passed on 08 September and it’s been sent to the Governor for his signature. The text of the final version provides, inter alia, with bold font added by us:

Section 1 (f) Section 60044 of the Education Code prohibits instructional material to be used in schools that contains any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, handicap, or occupation, as well as any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda contrary to law.

(g) On March 12, 2010, the Texas State Board of Education, which consists of 15 elected members statewide, voted to adopt revisions to their social studies curriculum for the 2010-11 school year (formally referred to as revisions to Texas Administrative Code …) .

(h) It is widely presumed that the proposed changes to Texas’ social studies curriculum will have a national impact on textbook content since Texas is the second largest purchaser of textbooks in the United States, second only to California.

(i) As proposed, the revisions are a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings that are driven by an inappropriate ideological desire to influence academic content standards for children in public schools.

(j) The proposed changes in Texas, if subsequently reflected in textbooks nationwide, pose a serious threat to Sections … of the Education Code as well as a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.

Section 1 of the bill appears to be findings, and California doesn’t like what it finds. Here are excerpts from the operational part of the new law:

SEC. 2. Section 60049 is added to the Education Code, to read:

(a) Upon the next adoption of the history-social science curriculum framework, the state board shall ensure the framework is consistent with provisions governing instructional materials, including, but not limited to …

(b) School districts shall ensure that the content of instructional materials adopted for use in grades 9 to 12, inclusive, is consistent with provisions governing the content of instructional materials, including, but not limited to …

SEC. 3. Section 60050 of the Education Code is amended to read:

[…]

(b) The state board shall inform the Chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Education, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, and the Secretary for Education of content that it interprets is the result of changes to the Texas Administrative Code

Wow! They not only have to make sure that any new texts remain consistent with California’s existing standards, they’re also required to search for and report any content in material under review that is specifically the result of the new Texas rules. This new law can be translated into a few simple words:

California to textbook publishers: Keep your Texas-style creationist and theocratic textbooks out of our state!

Now it’s up to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill. We’re guessing that he will.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Texas Textbook Lunacy: California Backlash

  1. I said this when the standards changed and I’ll say it again. Any rules that the current Texas Board adopted are pretty much useless.

    1) I work for a publisher of textbooks. Every book goes through a ‘fact check process’… in other words someone, who is generally good in that subject, reviews the statements of fact made by that text and insures that there is sufficient support for those statements. They don’t check their facts in cracker-jack boxes either. They use peer-reviewed research.

    2) My company also does state tests. Every question written for a state test goes through the same fact check process, not to mention review by a minimum of 2 (and usually 3) content experts. (BTW: This is what I do for science.) Trust me, we’ve dropped questions in file 13 for crappy facts. I sit next to big chunk of the Social Studies (SS) team. They do the same thing.

    3) http://www.textbookreviews.org/index.html?content=TX_adoption_cycle.html is the adoption cycle for the state of Texas. SS texts are due for adoption in 2012. Please believe me when I say there is no way that significant changes are going to be made in these books in the next 10 months. I do not know for certain, but I highly suspect that the review copies are all ready printed and waiting to be shipped to every SS teacher in the state of Texas.

    The only way a TEXTBOOK will be edited with anything that the School Board suggested would be for the 2018 or so adoption.

    However, there is a slight chance that ancillary materials could be edited… but I doubt it. Each text (depending on publisher) comes with large sets of ancillary materials; books, CDs, DVDs, lectures guides, workbooks, games, project ideas, websites with material from all these sources, etc.

    One change in a text book requires that ALL of these materials be changed as well. Then EVERY item will have to go through fact check, art (maybe), copy edit, content review, formatting, final copy edit, final content review, final formatting, page proofs, final page proofs, assembly, then printing.

    It will not happen in 10 months… or even 18 months, if they started when the law came out. I’m full confident every textbook publisher will say, “Gee, we just didn’t have the time to get your changes in, but we’ll keep up to date for the next adoption.” Hopefully, by then, the Board that adopted these stupid ass changes will be long gone and none of the changes will be required.

    4) Finally, trust me, when I say, none of the changes they suggested will ever appear on the TAKS test. And if it doesn’t appear on the TAKS test, then teachers won’t touch it.

    FYI: Most teachers stop history course work at roughly 1920. There is no material on the history TAKS test from about 1920 to present. That’s because there’s no guarantee that all students will get to that date by the time the test rolls around. So, if teachers get to that point before the TAKS, they stop and start reviewing previous lessons. After the TAKS… well most students don’t do too much after TAKS.

  2. ogremkv says:

    Any rules that the current Texas Board adopted are pretty much useless.

    That’s good to hear. Still, because it’s number one in population, the California law sends a rather unmistakable message to the industry.

  3. The industry already knows. They aren’t stupid… unlike the Board.

  4. Fine. Then Texas will have to buy from home-school book publishers, and that state’s kids won’t have their high school degrees accepted by any universities — maybe not even in Texas.

  5. Oh yeah, remember The Higher Ed board has denied the fundamentalist Christians degrees. If I recall correctly, there were a number of professional historians and history professors that wrote in and/or submitted commentary on the boards’ adoption plans and they all boiled down to, “are you people nuts?”

    Texas colleges can’t deny admission for students from Texas schools, but they can and do require ‘make-up course work’. Back, 10 years ago, when I was a college advisor, there were 3 pre-pre-algebra courses (pre-algebra was the first course that MIGHT count as college level math, but only if you were majoring in football) and 2 each for english writing and english literacy. I’m sure the colleges will have no problem adding history make up course work or requiring students to take additional history classes.

    On the other hand, Texas colleges and universities have no problem denying credit for coursework taken that does not meet their standards. One famous example that I know of was Texas Southern University. Many students get bachelor’s through Ph.D there… because no other school will accept a bachelor’s degree from TSU.

    Honestly, Texas schools and teachers are OK. They love their subjects and know what’s what. It’s the administrators (principles and higher) and politicians that don’t have a clue.

    I’ll shut up now. Thanks for letting me rant…

  6. Never a problem with an informed rant.

  7. Even the stoners in CA know better than the Texas SBOE.

  8. Yeah, the science teachers I’ve met here in Houston are great and look upon the State Board, and Little Lord McLeroy in particular, with great amusement.

    One anecdote related by a biology teacher concerned a student who, after class, asked her some creationist questions. The teacher responded, honey, y’all need to talk to your minister about that, we teach science here. The student responded that her minister didn’t know anything about it and the teacher replied, well, you just answered your own question, didn’t you?

  9. @Ogre MkV: Thanks for the insight into the textbook industry. It’s good to know there is a sanity-check in the system.

  10. “California to textbook publishers: Keep your Texas-style creationist and theocratic textbooks out of our state!”

    Unfortunately, I live in Texas and I am an educator. I have to deal with this crap. Some creationist teachers are happy about this. We need to expose them for the fraud they are and get rid of them. Unfortunately, the principal and school board don’t care unless if affects the taks scores.

  11. “One anecdote related by a biology teacher concerned a student who, after class, asked her some creationist questions. The teacher responded, honey, y’all need to talk to your minister about that, we teach science here. The student responded that her minister didn’t know anything about it and the teacher replied, well, you just answered your own question, didn’t you?”

    great! love it.

  12. Frances Monteverde

    Sue Blanchette, President-Elect of the National Council for the Social Studies, gives a first-hand account of the final SBOE session of public testimony concerning the new Texas standards. (See the September issue of the NCSS official journal, Social Education, vol. 74, # 4.) She critiques the document itself and concludes that “indoctrination” will supplant “social studies education” in the Lone Star State if teachers are forced to use the revisions. That teachers and students must navigate the seas of fanatical, uninformed opinions will take its toll. Texas will become even more “civically challenged” than it already is.
    The promotion of certain religious ideas bothers professional teachers. The promotion of a specific economic theory should, but doesn’t, raise some hackles. Rugged individualism and the free market are the preferred concepts in the Texas standards. For that reason, probably, the document recommends Mary Kay Ash as a “good example” for young Texans to research and study.
    Huh? Who’s she?
    None other than the founder of the Mary Kay line of cosmetics sold by enterprising women all over the State of Texas. Put that story in the textbooks and we’ll have an example of 10 years of saturation advertising directed at a captive audience of impressionable young females. Yet no one is protesting.
    “Why not Empress Wu?” I say. She was a very enterprising, individualistic Chinese woman who lived more than 1000 years ago. Ah, one of those unknown, inscrutable Chinese. Left to the Texas SBOE, she will remain unknown, but Entrepreneur Ash will live on to make more sales and recruit more converts for her business empire.