Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes to make the textbooks you use in school come together? Well, aside from being meticulously written and researched, textbooks also go through several stages of approval and fact-checking by organizations like the state's Board of Education.
And this year in Texas, the approval process for new curriculum was slowed down by some disagreement about what should be included in the history and social studies textbooks.
According to The New York Times, those on the liberal side thought that the textbooks included too much emphasis on the impact that the Bible had on the Founding Fathers when they were writing the constitution. They argued that the texts placed far too much emphasis on Moses as an influence on our current system of laws.
On the other side of things, the Times reports that Republicans thought the textbooks were "too sympathetic to Islam" and downplayed President Ronald Reagan and the accomplishments he achieved. During the disputes, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt withdrew five textbooks because they did not wish to comply with curriculum standards that the state approved in 2010 known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards that require expansion in covering the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The board also voted down six others from WorldView Software due to concerns raised by activists.
While these may sound like small things, they actually stand for much larger issues. For instance, teaching students about Islam has met a lot of backlash during recent years, something that frustrates Ibrahim Hooper, the National Communications Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"This is the same information about Islam that's offered about Christianity, or Buddhism, Hinduism or any faith," Hooper said. "In more reasonable times there'd be no controversy at all. But you have these individuals and groups we seek to demonize Islam and marginalize American Muslims and they manufacture these fake controversies to accomplish that goal. This is basic history of one fifth of the world's population."
The textbooks were eventually approved this past Friday (November 21) in a 10-5 vote—all of the Republicans voted in favor and all the Democrats against. The 89 textbooks that will be used by over 5 million students were approved, but only after the board required publishers to make numerous last minute changes—which some argue they didn't even get to review.
"I think it’s a disservice to the students when we have a particular bent in which we present things to them," said Mavis Knight, a Democratic member from Dallas. This dispute represents a more long-standing ideological tension that has run through Texas legislation for some time. The approved textbooks will be used for at least a decade.
Do you think the textbooks should've been approved? Let us know why or why not in the comments.