By Frank Knaack ACLU of Texas Legal Advocacy Coordinator Take Action: To put a halt once and for all to the Board’s abuses, we need your help! The ACLU of Texas and our coalition partners are pushing our legislators to strip the Board of its power over Texas public school curriculum development, and instead place control over curriculum where it belongs, in the hands of experts. I never thought I would say this, but I could not agree more with the Texas State Board of Education. When the Board reconvenes this week, they will vote on a resolution that would send a clear signal to textbook publishers. Under the proposed resolution, the Board will:
“…look to reject future prejudicial Social Studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to the treatment of the world’s major religious groups … by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others … .”

Sound too good to be true? It is. While the Board’s words may sound inclusive, their actions have been anything but. For example, this resolution claims that some Texas Social Studies textbooks have had a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias.” According to this resolution, the Christian Crusaders were unfairly labeled as “violent attackers,” or “invaders.” While the outdated, no-longer-in-use textbook over which this resolution expresses concern may have unfairly portrayed one group of people traveling from their land to another’s land for the purpose of gaining control of that land (I am not a historian), the concern over negatively painting one religion seems familiar. Oh yeah, it is similar to how the Board painted Muslims (and “Middle Easterners”/Palestinians) in the new Social Studies curriculum. Throughout the new Social Studies curriculum, the only group specifically linked with “terrorism” is the Palestinians. This claim is not only subjective, but also attempts to equate Palestinians with “terrorism.” (This claim is made in the section discussing “radical Islamic fundamentalism.”) In addition, because the examples of bias against Christianity are drawn from outdated textbooks, the resolution justifies its relevancy by stating “more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S.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.” This resolution and the Social Studies curriculum both ignore the many religions practiced by “Middle Easterners”/Palestinians, including Christianity itself. While the Board’s latest misuse of their power is regrettable, as we have documented, it is certainly not surprising. The timing of this resolution, as Abby Rapoport pointed out in the Texas Observer, is convenient for those Board members who need some last minute campaign contributions or want to rally their base. As we have seen with the protests a few blocks from Ground Zero or the (almost) Koran burning in Florida, jumping on the anti-Islam bandwagon is a great way to get media attention. Even though it is important to address the Board’s latest shameful act, this toothless resolution will not impact the selection of Social Studies textbooks. But, the Board’s actions last May when they approved the new Social Studies curriculum most certainly will. You can help us by letting your legislators know that educational experts, not ideologues, should determine what ends up in our children’s textbooks!