From the state that brought you the notion that Thomas Jefferson wasn’t an important Founding Father, and that the interning of 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II had nothing to do with racism, comes another attempt to insert personal prejudice into public school textbooks. This time, the Texas Board of Education is trying to limit references to Islam.
Textbooks nationwide have been twisted, dumbed down and flattened into such boring tomes that it’s no wonder most students can’t abide them. The public education establishment’s concerns about political correctness have resulted in books written more to avoid hurting feelings than to inform and challenge. California is one of the worst offenders, with its requirements that the elderly, disabled and minority groups be shown in a positive light and be given proportional representation.
But that’s not as troubling as the latest doings in Texas, whose school board on Friday decided that references to Islam in the state’s textbooks must be reduced. It’s bad enough that the board — which has made a point of opening meetings with Christian prayers and voicing its belief that government should be run according to Christian beliefs — tampered with history earlier this year by ordering publishers to downplay the role of Jefferson because he coined the phrase “separation of church and state.”
No one could accuse the school board of following in Jefferson’s footsteps. It’s particularly odious to see a government agency, especially one responsible for educating children, single out a religion and seek to diminish its status in world history. The new resolution comes from an apparent misreading of a textbook, one section of which contains more references to Islam than to Christianity. But there are other sections in the book that mention Christianity extensively. Given the board’s history of setting a “Christian” agenda, its attack on a single religion could be challenged in court.
Whether the Texas school board likes it or not, the United States’ interaction with Islam has broadened and deepened in recent years. Today’s students will need to understand and deal with these changes as they mature and enter the workforce and civic life. The school board has done a disservice to a major world religion and its followers — and to Texas’ students.