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Gov. Jerry Brown calls for mention of 'significance' of Obama's election in California textbooks

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(Read caption) California Governor Jerry Brown speaks during a press conference with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne at the Soumaya museum in Mexico City.

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We can already hear conservatives cracking jokes about crazy California liberals thanks to this news out of Sacramento: Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a new law recommending textbooks include sections that teach the significance of President Obama’s presidential election.

Measure AB 1912 specifically calls for the state’s Instructional Quality Commission to “consider including, and recommending for adoption by the state board, instruction on the election of President Barack Obama and the significance of the United States electing its first African-American president, as appropriate,” according to reports

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Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden authored the bill.

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“We want to make sure that future generations understand that the election of our nation’s first African-American president was a historic step in the effort towards equality and that previous elections involved intimidation and violence that prevented millions of African-Americans from voting,” Mr. Holden said in a statement.

Holden also said the law is “the first step toward acknowledging President Obama’s legacy for generations to come” and allows Obama to “take his rightful place in California textbooks.”

Not surprisingly, the bill has its detractors.

What is surprising is just who is against the bill. It’s not just conservatives.

The editorial board of the LA Times published an editorial earlier this summer criticizing the decision.

“For all the criticism that's (justifiably) leveled at Texas over its right-wing rewrite of its history textbooks, California is surely the nation's capital of legislative interference with what should be the job of academics,” the editorial read.

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It later continued, “High-level political interference in the making of curriculum and textbooks is inappropriate, and it has a long and troubled history. This is no less of an interference, though certainly more academically defensible, than if Republican legislators in Texas passed a bill saying that the Obama election should be left out of textbooks there.”

A southern California public radio station hosted a discussion over whether politicians should have influence over textbook content, saying, “Critics say the idea that politicians, who might have agendas, should have influence over what children read and learn in school is bad for education because it could be too biased.”

They were inundated with comments both for and against the measure.

We can’t say we’re surprised – and we’re sure this is just the beginning of the debate over the new California law. 

From a Virginia textbook that claimed that thousands of black soldiers fought for the Confederacy to one that appears to conflate Islam and terrorism, to another that stoked debate between evolutionists and creationists, textbooks and school curricula have long been a source of contention, and we suspect this latest controversy will be no exception.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.