History's first draft: Newt Gingrich but no liberals
Textbooks being written for Texas students appear to lean to the right
AUSTIN — Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority — but nothing about liberals — under the first draft of new standards for public school history textbooks.
And the side that got left out is very unhappy.
As it stands, students would get “one-sided, right wing ideology,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairman of the House Mexican American Caucus.
“We ought to be focusing on historical significance and historical figures. It's important that
whatever course they take, that it portray a complete view of our history and not a jaded view to suit one's partisan agenda or one's partisan philosophy,” he said.
The State Board of Education has appointed “review committees” made up largely of active and retired school teachers to draft new social studies curriculum standards as well as six “expert reviewers” to help shape the final document.
The standards, which the board will decide next spring, will influence new history, civics and geography textbooks.
The first draft for proposed standards in United States History Studies Since Reconstruction says students should be expected “to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority.”
Gingrich helped lead House Republicans to their 1994 takeover of Congress and became House speaker. Schlafly founded the conservative Eagle Forum and became a leading opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment aimed at formalizing women's equality with men. The Moral Majority formed in the late 1970s as an evangelical Christian organization that influenced politics and public policy for decades.
Will it pass muster?
Whether students will also be exposed to liberal examples from the ebb and flow of American politics is hard to predict. Conservatives form the largest bloc on the 15-member State Board of Education, whose partisan makeup is 10 Republicans and five Democrats.
David Bradley, R-Beaumont, one of the conservative leaders, figures the current draft will pass a preliminary vote along party lines “once the napalm and smoke clear the room.”
But not all conservative board members share that view.
“It is hard to believe that a majority of the writing team would approve of such wording,” said Terri Leo, R-Spring. “It's not even a representative selection of the conservative movement, and it is inappropriate.”
Advocate for both sides
Another board conservative, Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, thinks students should study both sides to “see what the differences are and be able to define those differences.”
He would add James Dobson's Focus on the Family, conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to the list of conservatives. Others have proposed adding talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.
“I think, at the end of the day, we will want the young students to be able to identify what's conservative, what's their advocacy and who are the conservative groups, individuals and leaders. And what is liberal in contrast,” Mercer said.
Among liberals to include, Mercer would nominate the National Education Association, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and the Texas Freedom Network — a group that says it promotes “religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right.”
“We don't think it's appropriate to be listing groups and people in the standards just because they're conservatives or liberals,” said Kathy Miller, the group's president. “The state board should simply stop putting politics ahead of our kids' education and putting teachers in the position of indoctrinating students with political agendas.”
The debate will likely intensify in coming months. Two reviewers have recommended that César Chávez, the late farm workers union leader, be removed from history books because they deem him an unworthy role model.
Board members appoint the review committees and typically choose people who share their philosophies.