The State Board of Education is sending a message to textbook publishers: Don't promote one religion at the expense of others.
In a tough call, the Board adopted a resolution about just what part Islam should play in schools' textbooks .
In a process that drew national attention to the capital city, the members approved the religion resolution by a vote of 7-6 to create a "better balance" of religious teachings.
Four members of the Board have proposed this resolution to warn textbook publishers to speak of the world's major religions equally. In the resolution, they said textbooks favor Islam over Christianity.
The Board said those are just the examples highlighted, but other people who testified Friday said you shouldn't single out any religion and rather be balanced across the board.
"Embrace the notion of religious freedom, provide respect and dignity for all faiths for students and the world's religions, and would direct publishers to provide accurate an balanced portrayal of those religions," said Kathy Miller, with the Texas Freedom Network.
"If it's an example of bias that exists, it gives the Board an opportunity to send a message not only in that context but any other context of any other religions to not allow that to happen," said Jonathan Saenz, with the Liberty Institute.
The resolution said in textbooks, Islam is mentioned more than Christianity - favoring Islam while casting Christianity in a bad light.
The Texas Education Agency said the books looked at by the Board were phased out a decade ago.
By law, the board cannot include currently adopted textbooks in the resolution. To do that, it would have to be within 90 days of their adoption.
So, the past books are the most recent the Board had to go on. The Board said it just wants to make sure the unbalance doesn't happen again.
"In going forward, as the books might be developed and paid for in the future, insuring up front that some of these potential imbalances or potential biases are taken care of before they ever reach the textbook review stage at the end," said SBOE Chair Gail Lowe.
The board adopted new history and social studies textbooks earlier this spring.
The Board proposed the resolution , stating the following points:
- "Pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas Social Studies textbooks."
- "Pro-Islamic/anti-Christian half-truths, selective disinformation, and false editorial stereotypes still roil in some Social Studies textbooks nationwide."
- "More such discriminatory treatment of relation may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly, as they are now doing."
Citing a string of religious mentions in Texas textbooks in use from 1999-2003, the proposal cited the following:
- "World History: Patterns of Interaction (McDougal, 1999): The proposal said the book devoted "120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings, less than half its 248 on Islamic beliefs, practices, and holy writings." It also said the book "dwelled for 27 student text lines on Crusaders' massacres of Muslims at Jerusalem in 1099, while censoring Muslims' massacres of Christians there in 1244."
- World History: Connections to Today (Prentice, 1999): The proposal said "Christian beliefs, practices and holy writings received 82 student text lines of coverage, just over half of Islam's 159." It also stated, "Three passages charged medieval Christianity with sexism; one said the Church 'laid the foundations for anti-Semitism…It described Crusaders' massacres of European Jews but not the Muslim Tamberlan's massacre of perhaps 90,000 fellow Muslims at Baghdad in 1401, and of perhaps 100,000 Indian POWs at Delhi in 1398."
- World History: The Human Odyssey (West, 1999): The proposal said the book "devoted 176 student text lines to Islamic beliefs, practices, and holy writings but only 139 to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings." It furthered "that Islam 'brought untold wealth to thousands and a better life to millions,' but that 'because of [Europeans' Christian] religious zeal…many peoples died and many civilizations were destroyed' in the 1500s." Finally, the book contrasted "the Muslim concern with cleanliness" with the Swedish Rus, who were the "filthiest of God's creatures."
The Texas Education Agency noted that those references come from books phased out nearly 10 years before, or were never used in Texas.
Regarding the "Middle Easterners" buying into the U.S. textbook industry, the resolution only stated business between Dubai-based Istithmar World Capital and the Education Media and Publishing Ground. The Istithmar's website says:
- "In 2008, Istithmar World partnered with EMPG to create EMPGI, a joint venture to pursue education opportunities in emerging markets."