In November 2014, the approval of hundreds of textbooks were put up for a vote in Texas, causing a fair amount of controversy due to the textbook’s possibly biased information.
The vote resulted in the acceptance of 89 new textbooks. Of the 15 members of the State Board of Education, only five members opposed the new textbooks, all of them Democrats.
Regarding the new textbooks, Thomas Ratliff, a Republican and the board’s Vice Chairman, said, “I’m comfortable enough that these books have been reviewed by many, many people. They are not perfect; they never will be.”
Despite this claim, boardmember Ruben Cortez, Jr., representing Brownsville, Texas, admitted to the Texas Tribune that “I did not have an opportunity to read this,” gesturing to a pile of pages containing updates.
The controversy surrounding the textbooks is due to potentially false claims within the textbooks.
A significant problem that people have with the textbook is the involvement of the Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy group that claims global warming has nothing to do with humans and that the temperature data shows no trends of warming. Even if the global warming correlation exists, it has the possibility of having positive aspects, the organization claims.
The Heartland Institute has claimed that even though scientists agree that the Earth’s climate is changing, they are unable to agree on the cause.
Yet this idea directly contrasts with an NCSE report, which states: “Scientists do not disagree about what is causing climate change; the vast majority (97%) of climate papers and actively publishing climatologists (again 97%) agree human activity is responsible.”
On top of the changes discussing global warming, Muslims are also negatively portrayed. The textbook states that violence in the Middle East is mainly caused by the Jihad, an Islamic term referring to a religious duty of Muslims.
Moses is also claimed to have a strong influence on the American Founding Fathers and is credited to their ideas. Although this does not technically combine church and state, numerous people are outraged by the Biblical reference.
In addition to these disputed ideas, much of the history pertaining to Native Americans was removed, including the tensions between the Natives and the Pilgrims and the outbreak of smallpox, as well as the brutal removal of the natives due to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.
Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker believes that the process of reviewing the new textbooks turned into a political conflict, stating that, “The circus-like efforts of right-wing board members, to impose their own religious and political beliefs on the public school curriculum, have been, and still are, a national embarrassment.”