The Texas State Board of Education has come up with another way to rewrite history, and this time it concerns what they perceive as potential “anti-Christian” bias in the state’s world history textbooks. The culprit? A “pro-Islamic” slant, of course.
The board kicked off a three-day convening in Texas yesterday to discuss, among other things, an innocuous enough sounding resolution to ensure the “balanced treatment of religious groups in textbooks.” The resolution, which is on the board’s agenda for tomorrow, would ban from Texas classrooms textbooks that “offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world’s major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others.”
And in a display of surreal Islamophobic paranoia, outsized even by today’s standards, the resolution warns that Christians could face the dangers of continued future discrimination “as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly.”
“I think our documentation clearly shows that the bias is there,” said the resolution’s author, Randy Rives of Odessa, who spoke to NBC. “And we feel that it was not done on accident.”
Among the charges, from the text of the resolution:
In one instance, devoting 120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 248 (more than twice as many) to those of Islam; and dwelling for 27 student text lines on Crusaders’ massacre of Muslims at Jerusalem in 1099 yet censoring Muslims’ massacres of Christians there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268, implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not.
Groups like the Texas Freedom Network and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have urged the state board not to pass the resolution.
Earlier this year, the Texas board successfully passed updates to state curriculum that excised people of color from Texas state curriculum and reinforced the notion that the U.S.’s founding documents had their origins in biblical scripture.
The reason these debates gain so much national attention is because Texas is the only state in the country with uniform adoption standards from kindergarten through 12th grade, which means that there are only a set number of textbooks the state’s school districts can access for free. It’s such a big market that textbook companies often wait to write books until they hear from Texas’ state board. And so when the state rejects or adopts textbooks for its five million public school students, they have the ability to also drive the market and shift public school curricula nationally.
Of course, at its heart these sorts of conversations are about the narrative of American history. Who are this country’s central characters, its heroes and villains? What are the country’s central struggles, and who deserves the blame and credit for America’s various missteps and milestones? There will always be competing narratives, but in Texas it’s Christian fundamentalists who get the final word.