Publishers compete energetically to win the Texas Board of Education’s adoption sweepstakes. In their strenuous efforts, publishers break bread and cut deals with the most powerful political players—not teachers, not school board officials, not parents or government officials, but rather Texas’ community of religious conservatives, whose support or opposition can make or break a textbook adoption.
Conservative influence does not begin or end with health education. Consider the changes made to these 2002 textbooks adopted by the Texas Board of Education:
Evolution: In Our World Today: People, Places and Issues (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill), a passage noting that “glaciers formed the Great Lakes millions of years ago” was altered to read “in the distant past” after a conservative reviewer attacked the phrase as merely “the opinion of some scientist who support [sic] the theory of evolution.”
Islam: A passage in World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures (Prentice Hall) noting that the Quran teaches “the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for . . . families” was deleted after a conservative reviewer branded it “more propaganda” for Islam.
Global warming: Prentice Hall dropped an entire section on global warming from World Explorer after a reviewer charged that it would “prepare students to look to the government for solutions to problems.” http://www.metroland.net/features.html
How the Language Police Drain the Life and Content from Our Texts
By Diane Ravitch - Published in American Educator, Summer 2003 issue
Censors on the political right aim to restore an idealized vision of the past, an Arcadia of happy family life, in which the family was intact, comprising a father, a mother, two or more children, and went to church every Sunday. Father was in charge, and Mother took care of the children. Father worked; Mother shopped and prepared the meals. Everyone sat around the dinner table at night. It was a happy, untroubled setting into which social problems seldom intruded. Pressure groups on the right believe that what children read in school should present this vision of the past to children and that showing it might make it so. They believe strongly in the power of the word, and they believe that children will model their behavior on whatever they read. If they read stories about disobedient children, they will be disobedient; if they read stories that conflict with their parents’ religious values, they might abandon their religion. Critics on the right urge that whatever children read should model appropriate moral behavior.
Censors from the political left believe in an idealized vision of the future, a utopia in which egalitarianism prevails in all social relations. In this vision, there is no dominant group, no dominant father, no dominant race, and no dominant gender. In this world, youth is not an advantage, and disability is not a disadvantage. There is no hierarchy of better or worse; all nations and all cultures are of equal accomplishment and value. All individuals and groups share equally in the roles, rewards, and activities of society. In this world to be, everyone has high self-esteem, eats healthy foods, exercises, and enjoys being different. Pressure groups on the left feel as strongly about the power of the word as those on the right. They expect that children will be shaped by what they read and will model their behavior on what they read. They want children to read only descriptions of the world as they think it should be in order to help bring this new world into being.
For censors on both the right and the left, reading is a means of role modeling and behavior modification. Neither wants children and adolescents to encounter books, textbooks, or videos that challenge their vision of what was or what might be, or that depict a reality contrary to that vision.
By the end of the 1980s, every publisher had complied with the demands of the critics, both from left and right. Publishers had established bias guidelines with which they could impose self-censorship and head off the outside censors, as well as satisfy state adoption reviews. Achieving demographic balance and excluding sensitive topics had become more important to their success than teaching children to read or to appreciate good literature. Stories written before 1970 had to be carefully screened for compliance with the bias guidelines; those written after 1970 were unlikely to be in compliance unless written for a textbook publisher. So long as books and stories continue to be strained through a sieve of political correctness, fashioned by partisans of both left and right, all that is left for students to read will be thin gruel. http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/summer2003/thingruel.html