State Board of Education Won't Fact-Check the Textbooks

There is one thing to say for the Texas State Board of Education: At least it's consistent. 

After all, why would a board that has already come up with a curriculum that has resulted in textbooks that are problematic at best (and, you know, factually incorrect at worst) want to have actual experts like university professors fact-check the textbooks? 

They wouldn't, of course.

On Wednesday the State Board of Education voted down a proposal to have a group of state university professors review the textbooks to make sure the books that millions of Texas schoolchildren will be learning from are actually right. 

As we've reported before, the board, which is charged with coming up with the curriculum requirements for Texas textbooks, has taken a, shall we say, interesting approach to deciding what should and shouldn't be included in Texas curriculum standards in recent years. It started back in 2009 when the State Board of Education was the scene of some of the fiercest "culture wars" scrapping, and the board tried to cut actual science (the Darwinian variety in particular) out of the state science curriculum.

That effort was defeated, but in 2011 the board got to have its way with the social studies textbook curriculum, and last year we saw the fruits of that coupling. We got textbooks that had factual errors (one claimed that Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person elected to public office, which simply isn't true) and we also ended up with textbooks that had troubling takes on everything from global warming science to Islamic history, the reasons for the Civil War and a whole slew of other subjects.

Specifically, the textbooks written based on the board curriculum claimed that Moses was one of the top influences on the Founding Fathers, they described the push for gay rights in the 1970s as the "gay liberation movement," and they explained school segregation as being an issue over some crummy facilities, not segregation. Most notoriously, one textbook drew national attention this fall when a Houston woman saw that the book described African slaves as "workers." 

Anyway, all the controversy got at least one of the 15 board members thinking that maybe they should set up some kind of a system to, you know fact-check Texas textbooks to make sure the stuff inside those books is correct. Thomas Ratliff, a Republican board member, proposed an amendment to have a group of state university professors fact-check the state-sanctioned textbooks, and on Wednesday his proposal was narrowly defeated in a vote of 8 to 7. All but two of the ten Republicans on the board voted against the fact-checking measure. 

Let's hope they didn't ban the use of spellcheck while they were at it. 

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