It’s been said that history is written by the victors. But in Texas, it’s sometimes written by the 15-member elected board that is charged with approving school textbooks for the state every eight years.
Tuesday’s hearing by the State Board of Education was supposed to have resulted in preliminary approval of 96 social studies and history instructional products that, once formerly sanctioned, will be used in Texas classrooms starting next fall.
As has been typical of past debates, the proposed texts have drawn opposition from groups of various political ideologies.
Criticisms from the left include overstating the influence of religion on America’s founders.
Conservative groups have expressed concern over the proper definition of jihad and other references to Islam.
Even a mention of Common Core — the much maligned national curriculum standards not in use in Texas — in some supplemental material was reason for concern.
The divided board has obliged these criticisms.
After nearly four hours of testimony, it failed to pass a preliminary motion, with five members against and five voting for approval. One member was absent.
Most frustrating is that four board members abstained, refusing to hint at what their final decision might be.
That means the SBOE will have to get desired changes on textbook language from publishers or reach some kind of consensus by Friday when the final vote is scheduled.
If not, the board will miss the deadline to get approved texts to the state’s 5 million-plus public school students by September 2015.
Without reviewing copies of the texts in question, it’s difficult to know if the concerns raised by both conservatives and liberals have any merit.
But it’s a safe assumption that both sides have exaggerated their complaints.
Ultimately, the SBOE is responsible for making the necessary revisions and reaching an agreement on the texts. On Friday, they shouldn’t shirk that responsibility as they did on Tuesday.