SAN ANTONIO—"We look cuckoo - which we are!"
So says Rick Agosto, a Texas Board of Education member from San Antonio, referring to a resolution banning textbooks with an "anti-Christian" and "pro-Muslim" sentiment, passed September 24 by a razor-thin margin .
According to the resolution, wealthy Muslims are investing in textbook companies and trying to take over the minds of local schoolchildren. Part of the "evidence" of the bias was the fact that some textbooks had twice as many sentences about Islam as sentences about Christianity.
The board rejected suggestions that, instead of issuing a blanket ban, would have called on publishers to treat all religions with "balance and accuracy." Other dismissed resolutions included a call to have scholars review any such claims of bias.
The Texas Freedom Network said that this resolution promotes bigotry and division. According to TFN president Kathy Miller, the some members of the board "ignore[s] sound scholarship and mires themselves in every hot button political issue they can find," and "they simply refuse to put the education of Texas schoolchildren ahead of personal and political agendas."
She said this resolution was an attempt to pit Christians against Muslims.
An unsuccessful candidate for the school board put the resolution forward, and it was added to the agenda by other board members.
The resolution could have been defeated: it was passed by a vote of seven to six. Three Republicans voted against it and two Democrats were absent.
The situation in Texas has national implications. That state is only one of eleven that have an elected board of education. Texas is also one of the few states where acceptable schoolbooks are decided at the state, and not local, level, and it is by far the largest. This makes the state the top textbook purchaser in the country, and publishers therefore cater to its policies.
By focusing on Texas, the extreme right has been able to keep Thomas Jefferson and Thurgood Marshall out of textbooks in districts around the country, and has been able to give a wide, captive audience to books that push anti-scientific beliefs, such as the idea the global warming is still up for debate.
The far right has become more brazen in their attempts to control public education in recent years. Many of the objections were made of texts that were accepted in 2002, by the same members.
But there has been a backlash. Two members of the board have been voted out, others are up for election this November—and efforts to remove them are strong. Progressives are trying to help people understand how powerful these candidates are and why they must vote in November in this "bottom of the ticket" race.