A band of members on the Texas Board of Education are upset about supposed claims of pro-Islam (and anti-Christian) bias in Texas history textbooks, and come Friday the board will vote on a resolution that would let publishers know the state won't stand for it.
"The purpose of this resolution is to ensure there is balanced treatment of divergent groups," Gail Lowe, the chairwoman of the board, told the New York Times. "In the past, the textbooks have had some bias against Christianity."
The resolution claims that past textbooks have devoted more lines to Islamic beliefs and practices than to Christianity and spelled out atrocities committed by Christian crusaders while ignoring similar atrocities by Muslim fighters. For example, the resolution says that textbook writers habitually call Christians "violent attackers" or "invaders" while playing down Muslim conquests in Europe as "migrations," and ignore Muslim practices involving sexism, slavery, and persecution of non-Muslim groups.
Some disagree. According to MSNBC, The Texas Freedom Network, a liberal education and watchdog group, called the resolution "ill considered" and "filled with superficial, misleading and half-baked claims designed simply to promote fear and religious prejudice."
While if adopted the resolution might not have an immediate effect, it does say that the board would "look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world’s major religious groups."
That might hold more weight than one might think. MSNBC notes that Texas is the largest of about 20 “adoption” states that make decisions about textbooks at the central level -- meaning the state board dictates what its 4.7 million K-12 public school students read. That also means its textbook contracts are lucrative: worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
"If you can control or influence our education system, you can start taking over the minds of the young people," said Randy Rives to the Times. Rives, a member of the school board in Odessa, TX, drafted and submitted the resolution to the state board. “And so I think we are real passionate that you need to make a bold statement to the publishers that pushing this agenda will not be tolerated in Texas.”
"I think our documentation clearly shows that the bias is there," Rives added to MSNBC. "And we feel that it was not done on accident."