Textbooks have become a new battleground for the minds of young people. Some circles are trying to push a whitewashed version of history that downplays America’s ugly racial past. Students in Texas have been assigned textbooks that describe enslaved Africans as “workers,” much to the anger of Black parents.
Roni Dean-Burren, a Texas parent, was so incensed by incorrect passages in her son’s textbook that she wrote to the publisher McGraw-Hill demanding they make changes. After a social media storm, McGraw-Hill agreed to made immediate changes to the digital edition and correct the next print version, according to Fusion.
The backlash and ridicule over errorenous textbooks embarrassed the Texas School Board of Education (SBOE.) But in spite of that, the SBOE recently voted not to have college professors fact check their textbooks. According to The Dallas Morning News, the vote was 8-7, with all the Democrats on the board voting in favor of establishing a review group made up of college professors.
Board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, a Republican, opposed creating the review group.
“I don’t want to send a message that … we feel the college people are more important. I don’t want that,” she said.
This is not the first time Texas has got into trouble over controversial textbooks. According to The Washington Post, a 2014 review of textbooks found passages that downplayed the effects of school segregation. Jezebel also reviewed books used by Texas students, which were designed to “put a conservative spin on history.” Jezebel found the books implied slavery wasn’t that bad, and plantation owners treated enslaved Africans pretty well.
What’s going on is deliberate and covert. It’s an attempt by right-wing forces to reshape American history by eliminating or downplaying the more unsavoury parts. Conservative forces on school boards and textbook review committees are backing school books that put forward incorrect information designed to portray America in a positive light. Their belief is that left-wing teachers are filling young minds with information that will make them grow up to hate America.
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson believes this. He said an Advanced Placement history course could turn high school students into future terrorists.
“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington … Little or nothing about Martin Luther King,” said Carson, during a speech at the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Action Summit last year. “A whole section of slavery and how evil we are. A whole section about Japanese internment camps. A whole section about how we wiped out American Indians with no mercy. I mean, I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to sign up for ISIS.”
However, Black parents, like Dean-Burren, are demanding educators teach accurate American history, no matter how ugly it is. Dean-Burren, a doctoral student at the University of Houston, was blunt in her criticism of the SBOE.
“I think they’re full of poo,” she said in a recent online video.
She said we need “books that tell our narrative properly.” Dean-Burren is also considering running for a seat on the SBOE, so she could have a say in what information is taught to high school students.