Texas tales won’t pollute our textsVetoed bill wouldn't have made a difference
Gov. Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would ensure that the Texas Board of Education’s revisionist view of American history won’t taint California textbooks.
Schwarzenegger called SB 1451 “duplicative and unnecessary.” It probably was unneeded though not necessarily for the reasons he cited. Last year, Schwarzenegger suspended the state Curriculum Commission for four years, making it unlikely that the state’s 10 year-old history and social science standards will be changed for years to come. So much for learning about American history post-Bush v Gore.
Earlier this year, along partisan party lines, the unabashedly right-wing Texas board approved 100 amendments to that state’s social studies curriculum, calling into question the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a secular government, inserting favorable references to the Eagle Forum, the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association, and citing the “adverse unintended consequences” of civil rights programs protecting women and minorities.
Because it’s such a large market, Texas, next to California, can influence textbooks used in other states. That’s becoming less so in a digital age, when publishers can more readily modify content. Still, there’s worry about the Texas creep.
Democratic Sen. Leland Yee’s bill would have required the State Board of Education, which approves curriculum standards and frameworks, to notify legislative leaders if they see any of Texas’ history standards in California’s content. The bill also would have required that the State Board see that existing laws on history and social science instructional materials be followed.
There might have been some symbolic value in condemning Texas politicians’ rewriting of history by signing Yee’s bill into law. But the California Legislature has done some meddling, too. A state law prohibits textbooks from including “any matter reflecting adversely upon people due to race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, handicap or occupation” – among other dictates. Publishers, worried about offending any group, must feel they are walking on eggshells.
California has an intricate process for adopting standards, frameworks and materials. The history and social science frameworks committee must make recommendations to the Curriculum Commission, which in turn sends recommendations to the State Board.
It’s always possible that a future governor will appoint ideologues to the State Board. For now, it won’t matter, because there will be no more textbook adoptions and standards revisions until the Curriculum Commission goes back to work in three years.
The history and social studies standards were last adopted in 2000 and were due for revision. The frameworks committee had made progress before work was halted.
With the state’s adoption of common core standards in math and English language arts, the priority now becomes creating frameworks and adopting materials in those subjects. So history will probably be put on the back burner when the Curriculum Commission resumes work.