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California passes bill to counteract ‘disturbing’ Texas curriculum

By Sahil Kapur
Sunday, May 30, 2010 10:23 EDT
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Measure ensures Texas standards don’t ‘creep into our textbooks,’ senator tells Raw Story

The California Senate on Friday approved legislation that sends a clear message to Texas and textbook publishers: don’t mess with our kids’ minds.

“My bill begins the process of ensuring that California students will not end up being taught with Texas standards,” State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who authored and sponsored the legislation, said in an interview. Texas standards had better not “creep into our textbooks,” he said.

The S.B. 1451 measure – approved on a bipartisan vote of 25-5 – requires California’s Board of Education to examine and report any discrepancies between the new Texas standards and California’s standards. “At that point,” Yee told Raw Story, “we will make it very, very clear that we won’t accept textbooks that minimize the contributions of minorities and propagate the close connection between church and state.”

California, also a critical market for textbook companies, can counteract Texas’s influence on how books are written for schools across the country. “It’s a warning to the textbooks writers and companies,” said Yee, who served on the San Francisco Board of Education earlier in his career and is currently the second highest ranking Democrat in California’s upper house.

The Texas modifications – approved last Friday – include elevating the significance of Christianity in the nation’s founding, minimizing the importance of Thomas Jefferson and his framework for separation of church and state, emphasizing “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” diminishing the scope of Latino history, and redefining slavery in more pleasant terms.

Yee called the changes “pretty disturbing,” accusing the Texas board of seeking to “wipe away history” and “rewrite history.” School curriculum, especially social studies and history, he said, should be “devoid of politics.”

America “came into existence because the founding fathers wanted to flee the tyranny of the church over a government,” added Yee, who immigrated from China at age three. “That part of the pride and joy of living here – that you’re not dictated by religion.”

Book publishers argue that such worries are unfounded in the digital age, where textbooks can easily be re-customized based on the different curriculum standards of different states.

“Whenever someone tells me not to worry, that’s when I worry,” Yee retorted, explaining that textbook publishers are in business not to “help out students” but to “make money,” so if given the choice they’d prefer not to spend the extra money re-customizing books.

The legislation now faces a vote in the California Assembly before it’s considered by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not announced whether he will sign it.

Sahil Kapur is Washington correspondent for Raw Story. He Tweets here.

 
 
 
 
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