Still, despite the testimony in opposition to the historically inaccurate material, the September hearing showed why the content in history textbooks shouldn’t decided by public comment. Amy Jo Baker, a retired history teacher, argued that the textbooks were “leftist” because they used Before Common Era (BCE) rather than BC, calling it “linguistic fascism.” Baker said historians use BCE because they refuse to “recognize the significant role of Christianity in development of the world.” Another speaker, John Noble, accused the books, and the U.S. government, of indoctrinating students with Sharia Law and Marxist principles. Noble said, “I don't think that Islam needs to be the spokesman for the textbooks. America was founded on Judeo-Christian heritage, not Islam.”
Board members supported these testifiers, repeatedly saying they hoped the publishers addressed their complaints, and also inserted their own politics into the debate. Board member Pat Hardy called it a “matter of opinion” that people might find the affirmative action cartoon offensive. Board Members David Bradley and Ken Mercer denied that the Constitution mandates the separation of church and state, and offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove the stipulation exists.
This entire process is about politics, not history. Since the September hearing, publishers, activists, and board members have negotiated the textbooks’ content. Climate change denial was removed, but Moses was kept in. Hillary Clinton was taken out, while George Bush was given a gentler biography. The affirmative action cartoons were cut, too.
Changes to textbooks, valid or not, shouldn’t be made in the 11th-hour by an elected political body whose members lack experience in the subject. Kathy Miller, President of the Texas Freedom Network said, “The fundamental problem is that partisan politicians are making decisions that should be made by scholars.” Last week’s hearings continued to show how politics have corrupted our textbooks, as right-wing activists and board members aired more complaints.
Board member Hardy objected to not teaching climate denial, arguing, “This global climate thing ... I don't see why if you present it, you don't present both sides.” A testifier complained that the science section of the website for the publisher Cengage had videos of dust mite reproduction and “horseshoe crab orgies.” Board Member Bahorich asked the publisher to “block” these videos, and it remains to be seen whether the company will follow suit. Jonathan Kaplan, a University of Texas professor, testified that “it is a gross exaggeration to view the Bible as the source of the American ideal of legal equality,” but Hardy disagreed. She insisted, “Mosaic law influenced English Common Law, English Common Law influenced American law.” (Mosaic law includes prohibitions on things like consuming grape skins and was intended for a theocracy with a monarch, none of which is part of our system of government.)