Prompting squawks of derision from liberal commentators and reporters, the Texas State Board of Education is about to debate a resolution submitted by social conservative members calling for the rejection of social studies textbooks that favor Islam over Christianity.
The resolution cites examples of bias in textbooks currently in use across the nation and also texts used in Texas schools as recently as 2003. It demands that the Texas "SBOE will look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others."
The resolution, scheduled for consideration at the SBOE meeting Friday, was proposed by Texas businessman Randy Rives, a conservative and a former candidate for a seat on the elected education board. The resolution includes four single-spaced pages of appendices presenting evidence of its allegations.
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"We're just trying to protect the school children of Texas," Rives told WND. "We have documented that in the past there was some pro-Islamic and anti-Christian literature in some of our textbooks. We want to put textbook companies on notice that if this happens again, it can cause your textbooks to be rejected."
Rives also noted the prominent national role Texas plays in textbook disputes.
"We are the largest buyer of textbooks in the United States, and publishers like to try to get others states to accept the same version [we use]. What we do in Texas influences the rest of the nation and we need to take that seriously, and make sure an agenda isn't pushed through the textbooks."
Rives conducted a study of texts approved by the SBOE for use in Texas in 2002 and 2003, and found numerous instances of bias. For example:
- Two texts devoting twice or nearly twice as much space to Muslim "beliefs, practices and holy writings" as to Christian beliefs.
- A text "dwelling on" a Christian massacre of Muslims, but "censoring" Muslim massacres of Christians during the Crusades.
- A text "claiming Islam 'brought untold wealth to thousands and a better life to millions,' while 'because of [Christian] religious zeal … many peoples died and many civilizations were destroyed."
The resolution also cites texts currently in use in American classrooms and finds the same problems:
- "Patterns of pejoratives toward Christians and superlatives toward Muslims, calling Crusaders aggressors, 'violent attackers' or 'invaders' while euphemizing Muslim conquest of Christian lands as 'migrations' by 'empire builders.'"
- "Politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture … and indicting Christianity for the same practices they … minimize, sugarcoat or censor in Islam."
- "Sanitized definitions of 'jihad' that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims."
Rives told Alana Goodman of the Alexandria, Va.-based Culture and Media Institute, "In the social studies books we need to make sure that our democratic values are depicted and that's not just my opinion, that's what the Texas education code says."
Much to the dismay of the Dallas Morning News, the resolution also warns that "more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly, as they are now doing."
DMN's Terrence Stutz reported that the resolution "offered no specific evidence of such investments." Stutz apparently did not bother to read Appendix III of the resolution, which cites a European press report that the Dubai royal family "was becoming 'a major shareholder' in the Education Media and Publishing Group."
EMPG, according to the resolution, "controls Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep and Harcourt Education, two of the most successful and established educational book publishers in the United States, together forming the largest player in the K-12 publishing segment."
As WND previously reported, American public school textbooks have been used to promote Islam, and publishing company executives are primarily responsible for the content of the texts.
DMN columnist Jacquielynn Floyd ranted, "Like a movie monster that won't stay dead, the crazy-eyed 'social conservative' faction of our ever-entertaining State Board of Education has caught us all off-guard once more, lurching back onto center stage amid a flurry of pitchforks and flaming torches."
Reporter Stutz failed to interview Randy Rives for his story, but he did speak with Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, which he describes as "a religious freedom group that has battled with social conservatives."
Miller accused board members of "putting politics ahead of just educating our kids," and, according to Stutz, argued that "current textbooks offer a balanced treatment of the world's religions."
On its website, Texas Freedom Network is calling the resolution "anti-Islam," dismisses the resolution as "superficial and grossly misleading" and attempts to refute it. But it is TFN's rebuttal that appears to be misleading.
For example, TFN's first point asserts that Rives' claim of double the coverage for Islamic beliefs is incorrect, because Rives ignores lengthy discussions of the Christian church in history and Christian influence on politics, art and culture. Rives, however, specifies "beliefs, practices and holy writings" – in short, theology – not history and politics.
TFN's second point also misses the mark. The resolution criticizes a Prentice textbook for ignoring atrocities committed by the Muslim conqueror Tamerlane. TFN responds that textbooks by Glencoe and McDougal do mention Tamerlane's depredations – but the resolution wasn't addressing those texts.
Nevertheless, Lauri Lebo of the liberal site Religious Dispatches praises TFN's study as a "great critique."
Lebo concludes that, "Based on TFN's analysis, it appears board members, in putting together the resolution, simply glanced at the textbooks they're criticizing, rather than actually reading and comprehending the texts."