Us & Them: Textbook Watchdogs

Aug 19, 2015

In this episode, I dig into one of my favorite culture war subjects: the battles in Texas over education.

For years, I’ve had a fascination with the fights Texans have had over education curriculum and textbooks.  This interest started with my research of the 1974 Kanawha County textbook controversy. 

When researching the events in Kanawha, I saw that a Texas couple named Mel and Norma Gabler came to Charleston to lend support to the textbook protesters.  At that point, the Gablers – a Mom and Pop team from Longview, TX – had more than a decade of experience of performing intensive reviews of public school textbooks.  Overtime, the couple would have a huge impact on what got into `– not just in Texas, but around the country.   

The Gablers died about a decade ago, but their work to bring conservative, patriotic, Christian values into public school classrooms lives on. 

Back in 2010, the Texas State Board of Education – a group dominated by cultural conservatives created some controversial standards for what kids have to learn in history classes.  These standards have been criticized for lionizing conservative heroes like Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlafly; downplaying slavery as a cause of the Civil War and exaggerating the Bible’s influence on America’s founders.

This fall, Texas students are going to crack open textbooks that are tailored to the controversial 2010 standards.  In this show, I speak with Dr. Don McLeroy, a former member of the Texas Board of Education, who was a part of approving the social studies standards in 2010.  He and his allies fought to have Moses included in the standards as a thinker who inspired the founding fathers.  We also hear from Kathy Miller, President of the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group that keeps an eye on the activities of the Religious Right in Texas and that opposes many of the standards that board members like McLeroy championed.