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Sep. 4 2009 - 3:36 pm | 265 views | 1 recommendation | 9 comments

Schlafly: Textbooks standards could offset the ‘bias to the left’

Picture of Phyllis Schlafly with U.S.

Image via Wikipedia

If you don’t know who Phyllis Schlafly is, you’re not alone.  The conservative leader who led the fight in stopping the Equal Rights Amendment, is a fringe figure in American politics. In the early 70s she inserted herself into the debate over the Amendment, staged protests, baked pies for state Senators and famously raised the specter of unisex bathrooms (the horror!) if the ERA was ever passed.

And while you might not have ever heard her name, Schalfly’s story might soon be drilled into the tender minds of Texas school children if the Republican-run Texas School Board has their way. The Board has drafted new standard’s for its textbooks demanding they “identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority.” There’s no claim in there that any comparable liberal persons or groups be required reading.

Of no surprise is Schlafly’s support of this plan. “Textbooks are very biased to the left and leave out a lot of things that ought to be in the history books,” she told me by phone earlier this afternoon. She believes that setting standards that included the teaching of her role in American history “could help even out that bias.”

Slightly paradoxically, if such a liberal bias exists, Schlafly asserted that she was already in many textbooks. “I’ve been in history books for years,” she said. “People send me my picture in textbooks all the time.”

While such standards might seem like small potatoes now, they have potentially larger implications in the future, as my former colleague Justin Elliott writes at Talking Points Memo. Large states like California and Texas often set the standards for curriculum included by national publishers. Mandatory inclusion of outmoded and often erroneous arguments in school curriculum would appear to be a much more serious concern than President Obama’s supposed socialist   indoctrination of the nation’s school children.


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  1. collapse expand

    A textbook bias to the left? Hardly! As someone who was in a high school history class just four years ago, I can say with all confidence that if anything the agenda is to push patriotism while downplaying the mistakes our government has made throughout history. Treatment of Native Americans anyone? How about all those leaders we secretly helped overthrow in Latin America? Glossed over, every time. I’d suggest “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James. W. Loewen as very illuminating reading on this topic.

    • collapse expand

      I was going to say the same thing. But I would like to expand it by saying that the textbooks basically ignore the plight of American Workers and migrant workers and they also leave out many of the people who tried to help them such as Eugene V. Debs, Helen Keller, Mother Jones, Etc. They fail to talk about the groups that they were apart of such as IWW or the Socialist party, and Populist Party (they are portrayed as Anti-American if they are portrayed). The Corporate leaders of America are portrayed as “great Human beings” while ignoring the evil deeds they did to the Labor movement. Also Most of the Feminist movement isn’t in those books, only a small section on the Woman’s suffrage movement is whats there. They Portray every win in Social movements such as Labor, Civil Rights, Anti-Slavery, and so on as lovingly given by the presidents of the time(especially with Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt). And like you said foreign policy towards Latin America is ignored so is the policy in the Middle East, Indo-China(and Asia in General), and Africa. Wars are also portrayed as “good and necessary things” while never talking about the horrors of War and of course the Vietnam War is rarely talked about. And this is of course only some of what they fail to bring up. Another book that is good at telling some of what textbooks seem to not bring up is Howard Zinn’s “A peoples History of the United States”(even though he forgets some things as well, but he admits this and he recommends some books on those subjects).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Exactly, justin. And please remember; These ideologues will NEVER STOP. They can’t. And they know their best chance at dominance is to indoctrinate the kids, before they have a chance to find out the other side of the picture. Even if, by some chance of fate, that the Texas legislature takes things in hand and puts a stop to the more egregious undertakings of the religious right culture warriors, the right wing will do the very minimum to tamp down the protests, as they did with the science standards fiasco and Don Mcleroy, and the Overton window will be pushed a little more to right, again.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    “She believes that setting standards that included the teaching of her role in American history ‘could help even out that bias.’”

    People need to get over themselves. This is beyond ridiculous.

  3. collapse expand

    Texas Freedom Network has been working diligently on this, and the previous cultural battles with the Texas SBOE over their science curriculum for a long time.

    The social studies standards are being written by religious right ideologues such as David Barton, an infamous Christian history revisionist, among others.

    Texas parents really need to get off their duffs and find out what’s being done, behind the scenes, to their children’s education. And the rest of the nation better wake up as well, ’cause Christian fundamentalists are doing this in other, less-publicized school boards around the country.

  4. collapse expand

    Oops, I forgot to mention that there are a few other teacher/activist groups working to publicize these culture battles, not just TFN. Unfortunately, they’re fighting some very well-financed opponents.

  5. collapse expand

    As a homeschooler, I have seen my share of textbook bias. Lots of Puritan glorification, booing of “secular humanism”, and lots and lots of glossing. I also see a focus on things that really don’t matter, to the detriment of things that really do matter. My last irritation as a homeschooler is a injection of religion into subjects that have nothing to do with faith. Science? Maybe something, but math, or health? Come ON!!
    Guess who is huge in the conservative homeschool community? Phyllis Schlafly. I’m just saying.

  6. collapse expand

    Fine. We know that Schlafly and the rest are the worst of the right wing, and no one of a moderate to liberal bent is going to agree with the proposed changes, which are as silly as they are evil. But we need to know more–namely, whether or not there’s any merit to the basic beef. We on the left love to argue that liberal bias is nowhere to be seen, but examples are easily found, from the mainstream media’s hostility toward religion to the treatment of African Americans as the sole minority in our ethnically diverse society.

    Overall, a strong liberal bias is not to be found in the media. Or, I suspect, in textbooks. But that doesn’t equate to its absence, and I would be anything but shocked if it turned out that many school texts have fallen victim to p.c. readjustment. We need to know, one way or the other, but I suspect the coverage of this issue will remain restricted to “Did you HEAR what those conservatives said???” Yes, we know that Schlafly, one of the most entitled of right-wing hypocrites, will never utter anything reasonable in her life, but what we need to know is more about the issue.

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    About Me

    While working at Talking Points Memo Muckraker during the 2008 Election, I covered the Justice Department politicization, voting rights law and the insanity of Alaska politics. I loved the beat which was somewhere between the wonky side of politics and the law. The realization was enough to send me off to law school in D.C. -- which seems to be a perfect combination of both.

    Though I've covered everything from birth control to blenders in my few years in journalism, this blog will be a compilation of stories related to the Supreme Court, federal courts, and the law generally. With an occasional story about Sarah Palin or Ted Stevens thrown in for good measure.

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