Ever since well-known Texans Mel and Norma Gabler began pouring over textbooks in the '60s in search of anti-Christian bias, critics have charged that the conservative right was trying to interject its agenda into the classroom. Conservatives over the years have battled such things as a photo of a woman carrying a briefcase, the theory of evolution, and "overkill of emphasis on cruelty to slaves."
In 1995, the legislature intervened and passed a law that said the State Board of Education could only reject books based on factual errors, not ideology.
But the board is also mandated by state law to approve books that are made of quality materials and that promote democracy, patriotism, and the free-enterprise system. And conservative board members are finding ways to stretch the definitions to suit their beliefs.
Two recent examples: The state board rejected an environmental science book last year, in part, because it put the US and the free enterprise system in a bad light as significant players in global warming. And, earlier this year, a history text was withdrawn by the publisher after board members objected to references of rampant prostitution in the American West in the 1800s.
Conservative groups contend ideas such as these are un-American or anti-free enterprise and should not be taught to children.
That would be fine, critics say, if decisions by the State Board of Education solely affected children in the Lone Star State. But because the textbook market in Texas is so large and financially attractive with 4.1 million public school children it is second only to California in volume of books purchased publishers often use books approved here nationwide.