Those Texas Textbooks Get Around
Posted to Vigilance blog on 12.12.04, by Jim Kennedy

Texas is, not very surprisingly, a place where religious conservatives have their way a lot of the time. This LA Times article, reprinted in the Philadephia Inquirer, paid a visit to Spring, Texas:

This is the home and power base of Terri Leo, a state Board of Education member representing 2.5 million people in East Texas. At the urging of Leo and several other members - who describe themselves as Christian conservatives - the board in November approved new health textbooks for high school and middle school students after publishers said they would tweak references to marriage and sexuality.

One agreed to define marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a wife." Another deleted words that were attacked by conservatives as stealth references to gay relationships; "partners," for example, was changed to "husbands and wives." A passage explaining that adolescence brings the onset of "attraction to others" became "attraction to the opposite sex."

Publishers end up making these changes to textbooks to sell in Texas, but of course they print thousands of them, and the same changes end up all over the country.

"I have very little use for this religion-driven curriculum," [director of the American Textbook Council Gilbert] Sewall said. "This confuses sex and moral education."

Texas is the second-largest buyer of textbooks in the nation, after California. Books purchased here wind up in classrooms across the nation, because publishers are loath to create new editions for smaller states. As a result, five social conservatives on the 15-member Texas board, frequently joined by five more moderate Republicans, have enormous clout - and often control the content used to teach millions of children.

Publishers have no choice but to heed many of the group's wishes, said Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher and Texas Board of Education member.

"They've got to sell books," he said. "It's business."

Here's a peek at what your kids will be learning in school before long:

In a nod to those who believe God created the Earth 6,000 years ago, a sentence saying the ice age took place "millions of years ago" was changed to "in the distant past." Descriptions of environmentalism have been attacked as antithetical to free-enterprise ideals; a passage describing the cruelty of slavery was derided as "overkill."

The pace of such efforts to alter the curriculum is expected to increase because Christian conservatives are "emboldened" by the Republican gains on Election Day, Leo said.

This is a theme we're going to hear more and more: they think they have a mandate.

Maybe they do in Texas.

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