The Texas Board of Education adopted a controversial resolution today that accuses textbook publishers of favoring Islam over Christianity and tells them to stop it.
Never mind that the books the board has cited as examples of bias were phased out of the Texas public school system a long time ago, according to the Texas Education Agency.
The board isn't letting facts get in the way, because this whole exercise really isn't about balance in textbooks, something that not even a halfwit would argue against.
The one-page resolution, approved 7-6, was put on the board's agenda not long after the panel finalized new social studies standards and right at the time when a charged national debate erupted over a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York, and about a Florida pastor who was threatening to burn the Koran.
That clearly speaks to a political, not an educational agenda. Consider that the board had plenty of time to deal with this issue when it took more than a year to come up with its controversial social studies standards, which sparked a long debate about whether religious fundamentalists on the board were imposing their own personal views on the state's schoolchildren. The standards were formally adopted last month.
The first line of the new resolution says that "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas Social Studies textbooks." As Mark Chancey, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University, wrote in the Dallas Morning News , the resolution only names two traditions, Islam and Christianity, and, he said, "presupposes" that they are in conflict.
"In its rhetoric, the terms 'pro-Islamic' and 'anti-Christian' go hand in hand; whatever is 'pro-Islamic' is by definition 'anti-Christian,' " Chancey said.
The resolution calls on textbook publishers to limit what they print about Islam in world history books and says the board "will look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions," though it is non-binding on future boards. It also contends that major education publishers are being infiltrated with money from Arabs, saying, "WHEREAS 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..."
Chancey notes that the resolution relies in part on a study by the American Textbook Council about Islam in textbooks, which takes the position, according to its website, that many textbooks present "an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security."
But Gilbert T. Sewall, the director of the American Textbook Council, an independent national research organization established in 1989 to review history and social studies textbooks, does not support the Texas resolution.
He said in an e-mail that the notion that Arab money is seeping into major education publishers is "absurd," and that the resolution, if passed, would be "an object of ridicule and embarrassment for Texas and conservatives."
Sewall, who was a history instructor at Phillips Academy, an education editor at Newsweek, and on the faculties of New York University and Boston University, also said the resolution was "arguably provocative."
The Texas Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, civil liberties and public education, had it right with this statement:
"This is the 21st century. Education is more important than ever for the future success of our children. Yet board members continue to ignore sound scholarship and mire themselves in every hot button political issue they can find. They simply refuse to put the education of Texas schoolchildren ahead of personal and political agendas."