The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Texas approves social studies textbooks criticized as inaccurate and biased

The panel has been reviewing proposed textbooks, e-books and other instructional materials for months and faced strong criticism this year that many of the proposed materials had a plethora of inaccuracies and biased narratives of some topics.

Critics said that some of the government and world history textbooks, for example, exaggerate the influence of biblical figures — such as Moses and Solomon — on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition. A few of the books include material that critics said  undermines the constitutional concept of the separation of church and state. They say some world geography textbooks give short shrift to the role that conquest played in the spread of humanity while at the same time negatively portraying Islam and Muslims. Others criticized some of the books as being too sympathetic to Muslims, revealing the spectrum of political views among the critics.

The books were written to meet social studies standards that the Texas board approved several years ago that included topics approved by conservatives. Now school districts will be allowed to select the materials they want from the approved list.

Before the vote on Friday, one publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, withdrew  from approval consideration its high school U.S. government textbook, saying in a statement that it recognized that the book, written for a national audience and not just for Texas “does not meet 100 percent of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards.”

There was one bright spot for those concerned about climate change education: the nonprofit National Center for Science Education reported earlier this week that publishers had agreed earlier to  “correct or remove inaccurate passages promoting climate change denialism” from the textbooks.

The Austin American-Stateman reported that the Sikh American community had worked with the board to eliminate more than 50 inaccuracies about their faith that had been imbedded in proposed textbooks, and it quoted from a statement released by community members:

“At first glance, this decision might appear trivial, but for the Sikh American community, this vote is a monumental victory in the ongoing effort to reduce ignorance, discrimination, and violence that has dramatically increased in the years since 9/11.”

The board also adopted math and fine arts instructional materials.