State lawmakers consider tweaking how panel reviews textbooks

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 4:04pm

Amid questions brewing for months over bias and accuracy in student textbooks in Williamson County, state lawmakers are beginning to mull whether they should tweak how a state panel reviews textbooks.

The Tennessee Textbook Commission is now overwhelmed with the volume of the task at hand, and lawmakers are hoping to hold hearings in the fall to consider how to address the problem.

“Am I concerned about what I think is bias in the textbooks and factual errors in the textbooks? Yes,” said Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), the chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “My biggest concern is that we get somebody in this process who is specifically looking for factual errors and bias, but there are many more problems besides that.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed the Textbook Commission is overwhelmed during a joint Government Operations subcommittee hearing Wednesday. Bell said he plans for lawmakers to come back in the fall to consider methods of alleviating that stress.

“It’s a broken system. They cannot do the job that the legislature charged them with years ago,” said Bell.

The debate began in earnest last December after an uproar in Williamson County over a textbook titled A Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition, written by James Rubenstein. The book is used in a human geography class, an international elective which is also an Advanced Placement course.

A band of parents actively questioning the text say the book is written with biases that don’t reflect Western values.

“If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?” reads one question raising concerns for parents in the district.

“It’s not just this textbook,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Williamson County parent has been vocal calling that question and others like it “blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric.” She provided the legislative committee with 17 additional titles of textbooks used in Tennessee with what she described showed similar biases.

“We want these textbooks removed, we want better vetting. There’s got to be more transparency. As I understood the process here, parents don’t get to have any feedback,” she said, adding parents should have seats on the textbook review panel.

Bell said he wants to arrange hearings in the fall in conjunction with the legislature’s education committee members to discuss how to improve the state’s textbook review process. The expectation, he said is to introduce legislation next year to make those changes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on the subcommittee voted to recommend the full committee renew the Textbook Commission for another year.

6 Comments on this post:

By: TennesseeJed on 6/20/13 at 7:08

So it's not just the Rubenstein text but seventeen other titles as well? About the only text that this woman wouldn't find objectionable is the Old Testament.

By: Badbob on 6/20/13 at 9:23

Putting Republicans in charge of a truth commission is pretty scary.... Their first appointee? Rush Limbaugh. LOL

By: Badbob on 6/20/13 at 9:24

2nd appointment? Larry Craig will head up the social values committee.

By: Left-of-Local on 6/20/13 at 10:02

This state's lawmakers should be kept as far away from picking out any textbook as possible. And the notion that we're still talking about PAPER books is even more pathetic.

By: ancienthighway on 6/20/13 at 11:10

A Southern Baptist concerned at antisemitism? What has come of this world? Oh, maybe it's just because on the quoted issue it was a Jewish vs Islam question. The correct answer to the posed issue is that both are in the wrong because they aren't Christians.

I'm sure once the State develops it's approved book list, there will be a book burning in front of every library across the state. Tennesee Homeland Security will be granted permission to snoop out electronic purchases of books not on the approved list. Border security will of course have to be increased in order to keep illegal books out of the state.

By: pswindle on 6/20/13 at 6:40

History is history. The next thing, someone will approve a book that says that the Confederacy won the Civil War.