What is often lost in this discussion is the idea that the Board has the right and duty to exercise quality control over the content of its textbooks, and it would be reasonable for any such body to be concerned about bias, double standards, and agenda-driven statements in those books. The problem that responsibility is encountering here is Islam’s already privileged status, where anything but accolades is to be met with knee-jerk accusations of the worst possible intentions, so as to shut down the discussion and silence dissent.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas State Board of Education adopted a resolution Friday that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks, as social conservative board members warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.
The board approved the one-page nonbinding resolution, which urges textbook publishers to limit what they print about Islam in world history books, by a 7-5 vote.
Critics say it’s another example of the ideological board trying to politicize public education in the Lone Star State. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for religious freedom, questioned why the resolution came at a time when “anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country has reached fever pitch.”
From that, you’d think those of us who criticize Islam’s teachings were rampaging in the streets, setting fire to piles of tires, hurling stones at government buildings, and calling for bloodshed.
“It’s hard not to conclude that the misleading claims in this resolution are either based on ignorance of what’s in the textbooks or, on the other hand, are an example of fear-mongering and playing politics,” Miller said.
Future boards that will choose the state’s next generation of social studies texts will not be bound by the resolution.
“This is an expression of the board’s opinion, so it does not have an affect on any particular textbook,” said David Anderson, the general counsel for the Texas Education Agency, when asked by a board member what legal weight the resolution would carry.
“So this is a cosmetic exercise?” asked board member Mavis Knight, a Democrat from Dallas.
The resolution cites world history books no longer used in Texas schools that it says devoted more lines of text to Islamic beliefs and practices than Christian ones. Chairwoman Gail Lowe said the resolution cites old books because board rules prohibit them from discussing current books more than 90 days after their adoption.
“I believe that it’s happening in the current (social studies books) even though we can’t cover that in the resolution,” said board member Terri Leo, a Republican from Spring. The resolution sends a “clear message to publishers that it should not happen in the future.”
The resolution also claims “more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly, as they are doing now.” […]
The resolution concludes by warning publishers the “State Board of Education 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 by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others.”
Eminently reasonable concerns.