Political bias in textbooks is alive, well and wrong

Mike Crissman

A week ago the Texas Board of Education approved controversial politically conservative changes to social studies, economics and history textbooks.

A majority of the heavily conservative board voted last Friday to make a number of alterations to Texas textbooks, which they consider to possess heavy liberal bias. Critics of the board’s decisions say they are attempts by political extremists to promote their ideology.

Some of the changes include a focus on the Judeo-Christian influences of the Founding Fathers, but not the philosophical logic behind the separation of church and state. Heavy emphasis is put on the Founding Fathers’ Christian beliefs in establishing the American government.

Thomas Jefferson (a deist) will no longer be considered a great intellectual influence on the nation. He is replaced by the likes of medieval Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas and Puritan theologian John Calvin.

There are also specific changes in terminology deemed necessary by the Texas board. America’s rise to power in the world will be referred to as “expansionism,” instead of “imperialism.” The U.S. government will be described as a “constitutional republic,” rather than “democratic.” In economic books, the term “capitalism” will make way for “free market.”

Recent third-party presidential candidates like Ralph Nader and Ross Perot are being removed entirely from the textbooks. Confederate Civil War Gen. Stonewall Jackson will be listed as a role model for effective leadership, and a statement from Confederate President Jefferson Davis will accompany a speech by President Abraham Lincoln.

Proposals by left-leaning members of the board to expand material covering Hispanics in American history were shot down by the conservative majority. Liberals claim there is a lack of fair representation in textbooks for the rapidly growing Hispanic population. Democratic board member Mary Helen Berlanga accused her colleagues of “whitewashing” American history and “pretending Hispanics don’t exist.”

Other textbook changes highlight the significance of the conservative-resurgent “Reagan Revolution” of the 1980s and ’90s, portray Cold War anti-communism and Sen. Joseph McCarthy in a more positive light and emphasize the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

In addition, the conservative board included country and western music among significant cultural movements, while hip-hop — an undeniably popular genre — is entirely ignored.

Changes to the Texas textbooks will have significant implications for the rest of the country. The Lone Star State is a huge market leader in the industry. Because of the large circulation of its textbooks, most school districts in other states adopt the same course material. Decisions made by the Texas Board of Education basically affect 80 percent of the U.S. textbook market.

Don McElroy, leader of social conservative members on the board, admitted today’s textbooks contain much political bias. He claimed their changes will “add balance” to the classroom, which has been “skewed too far to the left.”

However, instead of fixing the problem by making textbooks more objective, they are just putting more fuel on the fire by adding their own subjectivity. It is criminal to further add to the amount of biased fact presented in what are already heavily saturated political books. They are being hypocritical by promoting their own political agenda, while condemning liberals for doing the same thing.

Once added, the conservative changes will definitely combat material in textbooks that many claim to be liberal-leaning. Still, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Textbooks used by the youth of America should not be used to achieve political gains or indoctrinate opinionated principles. Textbooks should be completely objective and avoid pushing any political ideology onto the vulnerable mind of a student.

History should be presented as impartially as possible — the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter how positive or negative one’s political party is portrayed.

Mike Crissman is a freshman journalism major and columnist

for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].