Educational Research Analysts  November 2004 Newsletter 
The Drama Behind the Headlines.
Three Dazzling Texas Health Textbook Victories
Texas rebuffs condom lobby, upholds Defense of Marriage Act, asserts democratic control.
Three days after the November 2004 election, public school textbook reformers won three stunning national victories as Texas' State Board of Edu­ca­tion (SBOE) approved grades 6-10 Health programs – vic­to­ries for abstin­ence in sex ed, for hetero­sexual mar­riage only, for editorial accounta­bility to the people. Losers were those who advocate failed "comprehensive sex ed" (the condom lobby); who legitimize same-sex "mar­riage" through asexual stealth phrases in text­books; and who oppose SBOE power to enforce general text­book content standards, to tell pub­lish­ers what NOT to do as well as what to do.
" The Texas State Board of Education has approved new textbooks that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman."
NBC Nightly News, November 5, 2004

In this Health textbook adoption, Texas law undercut the condom lobby. Events finished it off. The Education Code re­quires emphasis on abstinence in sex ed and makes contra­ception info option­al. As submitted, therefore, major pub­lish­ers' student Health texts presen­ted sex­u­al abstinence only. They covered "barrier protection" in their ancillaries, free sup­ple­ments from publishers to schools that buy their books. The state review panel agreed that this met state standards. It gave each local school district flexibility to decide how much contra­cep­tive in­struc­tion is appro­priate in their com­mun­ity. Going in, the condom lobby faced an uphill fight to force stu­dent Health texts to tout teen contra­cep­tion.

— first success —

Abstinence supporters let the condom lobby talk at the July public hearing as Americans vaca­tioned, but to its chagrin they dominated the September hearing in num­bers, logic, wisdom. Said one, "We have no prob­lems 'preaching' to our youth, 'Don't Do Drugs.' However we stumble when it comes to telling our children to not have sex before mar­riage." Said another: "The main oppon­ents to this absti­nence-based text have been rallied by Planned Parenthood, which has a product to sell." In the end, the condom lobby got absolutely nothing on contraception into any major publish­er's student Health text. Its chief spokes­man abruptly resigned. This was the first great victory. Two more triumphs followed.

The condom lobby made sex ed in Health texts the only issue at the hear­ings. Yet there was another concern. Our reviews found that some of those books redefined marriage to include same-sex "couples" through mul­ti­ple asexual stealth phrases. This meant publisher nulli­fi­ca­tion of Texas' Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which declares same-sex "marriage" and "civil unions" against public policy and void in the state. With time running short, heroic SBOE conservative Terri Leo resolved to challenge this at the Novem­ber Board meeting, which would vote on approving these texts for local adoption.

— second success —

She brilliantly succeeded. The national media, poised for debate on contra­cep­tives, pounced instead on the mar­riage issue; and most of our elected SBOE dared not scuttle her motion to reject books that nullified Texas' DOMA. Seeing this, suddenly publishers would make revisions. Mrs. Leo also happened to have two-column lists on each of the five texts in question, one column quot­ing each illegal passage, the other telling exactly how to reword it. Literally overnight, marriage became a union of a man and a woman, or husband and wife, in­stead of two "partners," two "individ­uals," or two "people." Publishers revised eight passages on this, some of them quite lengthy. It was the second great victory.

" Health Textbooks in Texas to Change Wording About Marriage."
New York Times headline, November 6, 2004

— third success —

The third great victory was that Texas' SBOE again debunked the myth that it cannot and will not enforce general textbook content standards. General textbook content standards are a demo­cratic restraint by Texas' elected SBOE on elitist editors and otherwise unac­count­able authors, telling what they must not do. Texas' defense of its DOMA in textbooks is a model for other states with DOMAs to emulate. All other states should insist on the Texas edition of these books. One seldom sees three so great simultaneous textbook victories in a lifetime. In the same week as the presi­den­tial election, God engineered this Texas Health textbook approval outcome, and the other side knew it, and was helpless.


2005 6th grade Health textbook ratings

Texas has approved three major publishers' 6th grade Health books for 2005 local adoption. They rank as follows:

CLEARLY SUPERIOR

Health & Wellness   • Macmillan ©2006
  • Exemplary, directive advocacy of sexual abstinence
  • Greatest reinforcement of parental values in student decision making
  • Current info on pollution, free-market perspectives on conservation
  • Strong self-esteem component stresses striving to succeed
  • Heterosexual definitions of marriage and family
  • Usually humanizes the preborn child
  • Only 2 invasive student activities

FAIR

Teen Health, Course 1   • Glencoe ©2005
  • Sexual abstinence a relatively minor topic
  • Some emphasis on parental values in student decision making
  • Less coverage of pollution and conservation
  • Weak self-esteem component stresses only security and adjustment
  • Heterosexual definition of family; seldom mentions marriage
  • Almost always humanizes the preborn child
  • 5 invasive student activities

WORST

Decisions for Health, Level Green   • Holt ©2005
  • Comparatively little discussion of sexual abstinence
  • Least emphasis on parental values in student decision making
  • Almost nothing on pollution and conservation
  • Strong self-esteem component emphasizes self-motivation
  • Pro-same sex definition of family refers only to "couples" or "adults"
  • Usually dehumanizes the preborn child
  • Most insensitive: 21 invasive student activities

We created seven one-page, side-by-side comparison charts briefly contrasting these books' treatment of the above seven topics, which document our ranking. You may request those charts here. Publishers tout their texts' teaching aids. We stress their subject matter content. Publishers tell you their strengths. We include their weaknesses.

This evaluation covers student texts and Teacher's Editions only. It does not assess their ancillaries, which were not part of the official submissions and which Texas never approved. Local school districts and individual teachers will have to monitor the ancillaries for age-inappropriate material and lapses in editorial judgment.

No publisher funded these reviews. We have no financial stake in any textbook company. Unlike publisher sales reps, we have no monetary interest in textbook adoption decisions. our support comes from concerned individuals and a few small foundations, which to our knowledge have no ties to the textbook industry.





Finding Your Voice In Textbook Adoptions

Ask these questions to impact public school textbook adoptions.
What is the textbook adoption cycle?
Each school district has a rotating textbook adoption cycle. Your local school district can tell you yours. No mat­ter how bad the texts now in use, adminis­trators will say there is no money to replace them until that subject next comes up for adoption.
What are the textbook content standards?
Your state education department probably posts course standards on its website. Elsewhere online, your state's Education Code may list additional general textbook content rules. Your local school district may
also have class syllabi.
Who has standard review criteria?
Standard review criteria are not full course outlines, but lists of flaws that textbooks often contain or facts that they may censor on par­ticular topics. We have standard review criteria on some subjects to help you work better and faster.
What is the annual adoption timeline?
In about November, schools get samples of the texts. Local text­book selection committees start meeting in early January. By late February they recommend books for adoption, which local school
boards must approve, usually in March or April.
How soon can you see the books?
A major high school text may be 1100 pages long and a middle school book 700, with three or four offered for consideration per subject. Prearrange with your local school district to have access to them for review by early December.
Where can you review them?
Lest they lose their single copy of each submit­ted text, your school district will want you to examine it in their offices only. To persuade them to let you take one book at a time home to read, offer them a $100 deposit until you return it.
Which text is worst?
As you review, focus just on the Teacher's Editions of texts by major publishers on any one subject. All may be bad, but some will be worse than others. In hostile situations you have won if you merely prevent adoption of the worst of them.
Whom can you lobby before the vote?
You and all your friends should testify to the text­book selection committee before it votes (while the situation is fluid). Speak with the principal, the superintendent, and the school board chairman, each of
whom can influence the committee vote.
Who can help you?
Build support by quietly asking around to identify your allies among the faculty, in the admin­is­tra­tion,  on the school board. Show them the books. Quote passages. Rather than state your opinions, let them draw their own conclusions wherever possible.
What if you lose the vote?
Mobilize your friends. Write letters to the editor. Ask the school board to direct the committee to choose another book. Your district may publicly close ranks behind its teachers this time, but tell them privately, "Never put us in this position again."