The Texas State Board of Education today passed a resolution warning textbook publishers to scrub their books of “gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian” bias. The vote was 7 to 6.
The board passed the nonbinding resolution after more than three hours of debate.
Proponents of the measure, including board members and witnesses, argued that world history textbooks spend too much space discussing Islam, and in too positive a light, when compared with Christianity.
One parent said she read through a section of her son’s history book and found four pages on Islam and only one reference to the Bible. Asked by a board member what the section was titled, she replied, “Life in the Eastern Hemisphere.”
One of the board’s most conservative members, Don McLeroy, who is serving the last months of his term, said textbook publishers have been biased in favor of Islam for years. He argued that “one of the greatest gifts to the world was medieval Christendom,” citing an essay he had written in 2002 titled “The Gift of Medieval Christendom to the World.”
Board rules dictate that members can’t discuss books that are currently approved for Texas public schools. Therefore, they had to limit their discussion to books either no longer in use, or hypothetical future books.
Opponents of the resolution said they agreed with the resolution’s ostensible purpose, to make sure all the major world religions were treated fairly in textbooks. But, they argued, the resolution only mentioned “pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions.”
“That’s offensive language,” said board member Lawrence Allen. “You’re trying to use one religion over another, and I don’t think that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Opponents tried to amend the language to leave out references to Islam and Christianity. That motion failed, 6 to 7.
They also argued that the resolution itself inaccurately described information in textbooks, and moved to postpone a vote until November in order to do more research. That motion also failed.
One woman who argued in favor of the resolution cried out, “I believe Middle Easterners have bought the textbooks! They’ve bought everything else here!” She said Middle Eastern publishers should be required to proclaim their pro-Islam bias.
“I’m biased in favor of Christianity,” she said. “I’m biased in favor of America!”
Although the resolution was nonbinding, Texas school board decisions garner attention because, as one of the country’s largest markets, textbook makers have traditionally written their books, sold nationally, to the Texas standards. (Although there’s an argument that Texas no longer has so much sway.)
“Publishers are listening today,” said one conservative board member, David Bradley. “And they’re very sensitive to it.”