Textbooks as Weapons in Texas’ ‘Education War’

The United Farm Workers have a new action alert (7/24/09) about “an education war going on in Texas” they note has “major national implications as Texas is such a major purchaser of textbooks and their state’s required curriculum drives the content of textbooks produced nationwide.”

Specifically, “the Texas State Board of Education is currently preparing to adopt new social studies curriculum standards” informed by certain “experts” who

are arguing that the state’s social studies and history textbooks are giving “too much attention” to some of the most prominent civil rights leaders in U.S. History, namely Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall.

David Barton, one of these “experts,” claimed Cesar Chavez “lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others.” Another of these “experts” evangelical minister Peter Marshall said, “To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin”–as in the current standards–“is ludicrous.” He went on to say Chavez is not a role model who “ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”

The same “expert” wants to eliminate Thurgood Marshall, a prominent civil rights leader who argued the landmark case that resulted in school desegregation and was the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice. He wrote that the late justice is “not a strong enough example” of an important historical figure to be presented to Texas students.

To the UFW, complaints of an “over-representation of minorities” are particularly “ironic in light of the changing demographics of our country”–where, “sadly, Latino and African-American children have the highest drop-out rates in the country.”

Take action against cultural censorship by telling the Texas State Board of Education chair and vice chair “to ensure schools are providing students with role models and historical figures whose experiences reflect their own.”