How bad are the textbooks used in Texas now?

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tags: slavery, textbooks, APUSH



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[A] blogger for Slate [has] insisted she wouldn’t raise her kids in Texas because of the “partisan fictions that are inundating Texas’ textbooks.”

That does sound awful. Downplaying slavery’s role in Southern history is shocking and despicable, as is pretending that the obscene legacy of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow doesn’t exist. How could this travesty have come to pass?

The short answer: it didn’t.

To understand what’s going on, you need a little history lesson. In 2010 the Texas State Board of Education adopted curriculum standards—essentially instructions for publishers—that did, in fact, downplay slavery and discrimination. Scorn and ridicule quickly followed, even from unlikely sources such as the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which excoriated the state board for displaying “overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars.”

So when publishers submitted textbooks to the board last year, many worried that they would be tainted by the board’s slippery grasp of the state’s racist past. Happily, though, publishers mostly ignored the board, according to Dan Quinn, of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization dedicated to countering what it sees as far-right activism. “I think publishers did a good job of making sure of the centrality of slavery,” he says. Quinn, who perhaps more than anyone has sounded the alarm about the board’s bias, was distressed to read national reports asserting incorrectly that Texas children wouldn’t be reading about the KKK and Jim Crow. “The textbooks cover all of that,” he says. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s eighth-grade U.S. history textbook, for instance, includes a section on KKK terror and the postwar black codes that created “working conditions similar to those under slavery.”




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