Texas School Board Decides Not to Have Academics Fact-Check Textbooks

Factual errors have made their way into academic materials across the U.S.
(Photo: Twitter)
Nov 19, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

School textbooks may not contain the most captivating accounts of history, but parents, students, and educators alike typically expect them to be accurate. An effort to ensure that academic materials are credible in the Lone Star state was deemed unnecessary on Wednesday evening.

The Texas Board of Education ruled 8–7 against establishing a panel of state university academics to pore over textbooks used in public schools to check for factual errors, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Textbooks currently undergo one round of reviews, but that is primarily for curriculum checks and is completed by a public group. The “citizen panel” consists of teachers, parents, and business leaders. Critics say that some of these editors do not have expertise in academia and allow political and religious biases to make their way into education materials, according to the Morning News.

Board members who voted against the secondary panel argued that academics were free to contact review boards if they noticed an error, and that adding a second round of checks would be arduous and time-consuming.

But the burden of calling out inaccurate descriptions or bias sometimes falls on students and parents who happen to notice mistakes.

Last month, a Houston mom shared an image in a geography book that referred to Africans kidnapped and forced into slavery in America as “immigrants” and “workers” on social media. Publisher McGraw-Hill apologized and issued a digital update, but this wasn’t the first error discovered in a Texas textbook.

Watchdog group Education Fund of the Texas Freedom Network found a whole host of inaccuracies and biases in a 2014 study, including misinformation about religions outside of Christianity, outdated racial terminology, and an absence of LGBT history.

While the board opted out of the secondary board, all 15 members voted in favor of a new requirement for existing boards: The majority of members must have “sufficient content expertise and experience,” approved by the state education commissioner.

As one of the largest purchasers of textbooks in the nation, Texas is often catered to by major publishers. The state’s academic materials often filter into other states, which affects what children across the country learn. Some experts say that Texas’ national influence has been less pronounced in recent years, owing to advances in publishing and digital editions.