California’s economic crisis could put Texas in the driver’s seat of public education

California is the largest purchaser of textbooks in the United States.  Unfortunately, with the state’s economy in shambles, California has decided to hold off on buying new textbooks until 2014.  The question is, which textbooks will the state be buying?  For years, California drove what information was included in textbooks across the nation.  However, with the purchase of text books so far off, California’s influence may soon be replaced — by the state of Texas.  After California, Texas has the second largest textbook market and wields tremendous influence over what information is included in textbooks and effectively, the nation. 

Last week, the Texas State Board of Education debated what to include, remove, and revise in the state’s current textbooks.  Specifically, the Board approved numerous revisions to the Texas social studies books that appear to rewrite history to align with the conservative majority’s viewpoint.  For example, the Board inserted language that questions whether or not the Founding Fathers sought a more secular government.  Specifically, the books will now highlight the Judeo-Christian influences of the Founding Fathers while seemingly dismissing their commitment to separation of church and state.  In fact, the Board went so far as to remove Thomas Jefferson from the textbook completely.  Jefferson Davis is placed on equal footing with Abraham Lincoln, and Republicans are supposedly portrayed in a much more positive light, including Joe McCarthy.  On the other hand, efforts to remove Thurgood Marshall as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and the role he played in Brown v. Board of Education were unsuccessful. 

When questioned, California state officials said that the state has its own standard and has no use for the Texas textbooks.  According to Department of Education spokeswoman Hilary McLean, “California is such a large consumer, it’s more of a driver in this scenario rather than being influenced by other states’ textbook adoption.  Any textbooks adopted in California are going to follow our standards.”

The Texas State Board of Education will take a final vote in May 2010 to approve the final language in the revised textbooks.  Additional changes are not expected.