By Elizabeth Wong, Associate Director
Earlier this spring, the Texas State Board of Education drew criticism from across the nation after it released proposals for new ideologically-driven standards for its social studies textbooks that abandon any attempt at objectivity. The proposed standards whitewash Joe McCarthy’s infamous civil liberties abuses, stigmatize Muslims, and generally aggrandize conservative historical figures while marginalizing mainstream and progressive figures.
As a Virginia resident, I can hear your reaction now, something like: “That’s just happening in Texas, a outlier state whose robust intellectual, social and political blunders are legendary, but whose influence on other states is diminimus. Which textbooks Texas uses surely has no bearing on Virginia.”
But that’s not true. Educators across the country have been quick to point out that the textbook selection process works in such a way that what happens in large states, such as Texas and California, greatly influences the textbook options for other states.
Texas purchases tens of millions of textbooks annually to educate the millions of students who live there. If Texas changes to its history books, the textbook publishing industry will cater to its needs by producing more of the textbooks Texas wants and fewer of the scholarly textbooks we are accustomed to seeing in public schools. And that will reduce the textbook options for smaller states. In fact, while the digital age has to some extend mitigated the influence of the larger states on the textbook industry, currently more than 45 states use textbooks based on Texas’ curriculum.
So what happens to Texas textbooks does matter in Virginia…and in lots of other states as well.
Now that we can see how the Texas decision affects Virginia, perhaps we in Virginia should provide Texas with our two cents.
There are just a few days left in the public comment period for the consideration of a revised social studies curriculum for Texas public schools. Please urge Texas not to rewrite history! Click here to take action and support a history curriculum based on academic integrity, not ideology.
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