Divisible, Under God: Texas Schools Ban “Anti-Christian” Books

While the rest of the nation tries to move forward on education, Texas takes a giant leap back.

By Naima Ramos-Chapman Sep 27, 2010

If there was ever a time when Winston Churchill’s adage, "History is written by the victors" is true, it’s now. In a narrow decision, the Texas School Board has voted on Friday to ban books that have "anti-Christian, pro-Islamic slant[s]."

The state’s current bout of Islamophobia isn’t new, or shocking. Earlier this year, the school board successfully passed revisions that effectively excised people of color from history.

Last week Julianne Hing wrote for ColorLines about the ridiculous claims of anti-Christian bias cited by authors of the latest ban, and how the textbook debate in Texas could have far-reaching national implications:

The reason these debates gain so much national attention is because Texas is the only state in the country with uniform adoption standards from kindergarden 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’ school 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.

As Dave Waters from the Washington Post writes, the whole resolution was based on faulty evidence:

The resolution was based on facts the board declined to check for accuracy and about which there is some dispute. For example, the resolution cites one world history textbook as having devoted "120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings, but 248 to those of Islam." But, as the Texas Freedom Network pointed out, the resolution ignores entire sections of the textbook devoted to the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Reformation, and other sections that discuss Christianity.

On Education Week’s blog Cirriculum Matter, Erik Robelen breaks down what the resolution means for the future of history textbooks:

The resolution says that a "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas Social Studies textbooks" and that the state board will "reject future prejudicial Social Studies submissions that continue to 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."

While the rest of the nation is locked into a ferocious debate over education reform — courtesy, in part, to the controversial new documentary Waiting for Superman) —  Texas has chosen to single-handedly push their children’s education back in time.