Tag Archives: textbooks

Rep. Daniel’s ‘social justice’ comments criticized by Democrats, GOP opponents

State Rep. Martin Daniel’s complaints about the civil rights movement as a theme in a Knox County Schools fourth-grade reading exercise have ignited debate on social media and drawn criticism from Democrats and from his Republican opponents in the Aug. 4 state primary.

Further from Georgiana Vines:

“It is unbelievable that Rep. Martin Daniel wants to roll back the clock to pre-civil rights era,” Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Cameron Brooks said… “Saying that we should not teach this historic (civil rights) movement to our children is outrageous. Tennessee Republicans once again want to force their extremist ideas on our youth by erasing our country’s rich history.”

Daniel wrote to the Knox County school board — with copies sent to state education officials and Gov. Bill Haslam — that the reading exercise in his daughter’s class at Sequoyah Elementary School deals with “social injustice.” He asked whether it was appropriate for a fourth-grader and said he was “shocked” by the content.

..Former state Rep. Steve Hall, who is running in the GOP primary to regain the 18th District House seat from Daniel, said he thought the class exercise was appropriate.

“Maybe I didn’t realize it was in a reading class, but we don’t instruct now in just reading. It’s not like back when I was a kid. As long as it’s a truthful statement or could have been, it probably was a fairly accurate statement. I think our children need to be aware of that kind of stuff,” Hall said.

Another opponent, James Corcoran, referenced Daniel’s remarks in March during a state House debate on a proposed “Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act,” in which Daniel said campuses could be used to recruit for any group — even ISIS, “so long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings on that campus.” The bill was removed from consideration for the rest of this year.

“So, the incumbent that would have protected ISIS’s ‘right’ to recruit at public universities wants to fight against fourth-graders learning about civil rights,” Corcoran wrote on Facebook.
Continue reading

Legislator protests ‘social justice’ theme in 4th grade textbook

State Rep. Martin Daniel has complained to education officials and Gov. Bill Haslam about a fourth-grade reading exercise that incorporates themes from the civil rights movement into English and language arts activities, reports Georgiana Vines.

Daniel, a Republican representing the 18th District in the West and North Knoxville areas, said the exercise deals with “social injustice” and asks whether this is appropriate for children at a young age.

The exercise describes a student whose textbook is “worn and missing a dozen pages.” The student is in a black community where schools receive old, damaged books while those in white areas get new textbooks. Through a court case, the school board agrees to revise the system for providing materials to schools.

In the exercise, the fourth-grade student is asked to explain the cause (why something happens) and effect (what happens).

Daniel has a fourth-grade daughter at Sequoyah Elementary School who brought the exercise home. He said he was “shocked” at the content. Otherwise he is “very happy” with the school, he said.

He discussed his concern with Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre, who wrote to Daniel to say the unit was part of a series, “Reading Street,” adopted by the Tennessee Board of Education upon recommendation of the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission and of the Knox County school board “through a vigorous process that includes teacher recommendations and opportunities for public review and input.”

Daniel wrote to the county school board — with copies to Haslam, the chairs of the state House and Senate education committees, the state textbook commission and the state Board of Education — that he is concerned the subject matter “subtly, but unnecessarily, injects a dose of ‘social justice’ into our impressionable youth.”

Note: The Nashville Scene’s Cari Wade Gervin offers critical commentary, more comments from Daniel and a link to the full letter.

Speakers will appoint a majority of members for Textbook Commission under Legislature-approved bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Legislation that makes changes to the process for selecting books for public schools is headed to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

Lawmakers in both chambers on Thursday agreed to minor changes made by a conference committee.

Currently, a 10-member textbook selection panel recommends its selections to the State Board of Education, and local school systems then choose which textbooks to adopt.

Criticism of the content of some books led to calls for a stronger public review process.

Under the legislation, the speakers and the governor would each make three appointments to the panel, as the Senate had proposed. The House had called for the speakers to make two appointments each to the panel and for the governor to appoint five.

The legislation also requires that history and fundamental documents be taught.

Textbook Commission overhaul (with cut in gov’s appointments) gets Senate committee OK

A Senate committee approved Wednesday legislation overhauling the controversy-plagued Tennessee Textbook Commission and slashing the governor’s authority to appoint its members.

The bill (SB1602) is an outgrowth of legislative hearings last year that Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Summerville, said left lawmakers “distressed” with apparent liberal bias and inappropriate language in approved textbooks as well the commission’s operational rules.

Gresham and Sen. Mike Bell, chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee and sponsor of the bill, said the measure makes improvements on several fronts.

For example, current law requires textbook companies to post a bond ranging from $250,000 to $1 million, depending on volume of textbooks provided. Bond requirements are reduced to a range of between $2,000 and $10,000 under the bill, which Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said is in line with other states.

Tennessee now often has only four of five companies that can offer books because of the high bond while other states typically have 30 or 40 companies qualifying, said Bell, the bill’s sponsor.

Other new provisions range from a requirement that copies of textbooks under consideration be made available on the internet for citizen review to a change in appointing authority.
Continue reading

Bill to overhaul Textbook Commission filed

Wasting no time addressing what conservatives have called a pattern of bias in Tennessee textbooks, a Republican senator has filed legislation to give lawmakers a say over who sits on a key panel that reviews the materials, reports The Tennessean.

In addition, the comprehensive bill (SB1735) would establish criteria for reviewing textbooks, including an examination on whether they are “free from biases in their viewpoints” and “reflect the values” of Tennessee citizens — language already under criticism because of its potential to draw wide-ranging interpretations.

“It’s a complete overhaul of the textbook commission,” said Mike Bell, R-Riceville, chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. Bell has sponsored the bill with eight others, including Education Committee chairwoman Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville.

“Before, they were not even required to look for factual errors,” Bell said.

The 10-member Tennessee Textbook Commission — which reviews and recommends textbooks for the State Board of Education to approve and local school boards to adopt — is currently composed of nine appointees from the governor as well one ex-officio member, the state education commissioner.

The bill would divide those nine appointments among both legislative chambers and the executive branch, giving three apiece to the House speaker, lieutenant governor and governor. Each commission member would need confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly, a process that would begin in 2015.

The legislation, filed on the first day of the new session, comes as tea party activists and some parents have ramped up demands for a stronger, more accountable textbook review process. The Senate Education Committee held a two-day hearing on the issue in November.

“When we started receiving complaints about the textbook issue, our constituents were calling us,” Bell said. “They’re not calling the governor’s office. They’re not calling the textbook commission directly. They call their senator or representative.”

AP story on textbook, Common Core controversies in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee education officials trying to implement the federal government’s new Common Core academic standards face opposition from a tea party-linked group that also objects to what it considers biased passages in some state-approved textbooks.

In September, the Senate Education Committee held hearings to discuss concerns about the standards that are designed to prepare students for college or a job by the time they graduate from high school. Two months later, the same committee called hearings to review the role of the Tennessee Textbook Commission, which recommends its selection of books to the State Board of Education.

At just about all the hearings were representatives of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, a conservative group that shares many tea party beliefs. It seems to have the strongest influence on Republican lawmakers proposing measures for the upcoming session that seek to change the standards and the textbook commission.

“There will be legislation in January, because we’ve been working on that,” said Eagle Forum president Bobbie Patray. “There are going to be major changes.”

At a recent news conference, House Republican leaders told reporters there will be discussion about Common Core and the textbook commission in the upcoming Legislature. They didn’t specify any legislation, but said they welcome the input of tea partyers.

“They should have the same rights as anyone else to have their views known, and we need to consider them seriously,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga. “We actually agree with most of what they’re advocating anyway.”

In the case of the textbook commission, Patray said there will likely be legislation that seeks to involve more public input in the selection of books, particularly from parents, whom she’s been rallying for months.

Earlier this year, parents in Williamson County raised concerns about a question in a world geography textbook that asked students to consider whether a suicide bomber attacking civilians in a cafe in Israel was terrorism or retaliation for military actions against Palestinians.

Critics say the question is among passages that display bias.

Emily Barton, assistant commissioner of curriculum and instruction for the state Department of Education, acknowledged during one of the hearings that more public input is needed and suggested instituting online reviews “so that all citizens can have equal access to reviewing these materials and sharing their comments and feedback.”

Michelle Farnham was at the hearing and said that’s something she’d like to see.

“My daughter will be in public schools at some point and I want to make sure they (books) are up to standard,” Farnham said.

As for the Common Core standards, Patray was more vague about legislation. She did cite concerns echoed by other opponents: costly implementation, untested, and data gathering believed to infringe on students’ privacy rights.

However, supporters of the new set of standards being implemented in 45 states and the District of Columbia for reading and math say they’re needed to equip students with the critical thinking, problem-solving and writing skills needed to prepare them for college and the workforce — as well as global competition.

“For years, Tennessee has shown a commitment to raising standards for students,” said Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier. “Implementing the Common Core state standards is the next step of that journey, and one we believe will ensure that all of our students graduate high school prepared for college or careers.”

Whether it’s Common Core or the textbook commission, Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer said tea partyers and groups linked to them seem to have a “distrust of anything government designs.”

“Their initial assumption is there must be something wrong with it,” he said. “In some cases it’s conspiratorial, but in other cases just an immediate distrust.”

TN textbook war expanding to attack on publisher

Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Williamson County parent whose complaints helped spark a textbook uproad at the state Legislature, now says all the books her group has reviewed have flaws, according to the Tennessean.

(A)s Tennessee school districts prepare to adopt new textbooks for 2014-15, she has broadened her target to include one of the most powerful companies in public education: Pearson, a publishing company that she alleges has a history of bias.

“If they’re going to pay for a product, it better not be defective,” said Cardoza-Moore, who was among several parents who spoke in November at the state Senate Education Committee’s hearings on the role of the state textbook commission.

Her group’s complaints have ignited a textbook uproar in the state legislature, arming conservative lawmakers with a litany of passages and excerpts they claim are biased or inaccurate.

…Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, chairwoman of the Education Committee — who called the Williamson County episode the “catalytic event” that began the statewide conversation — plans to introduce legislation that would give more sway to public input in the approval of textbooks. It’s one of several bills involving textbooks that could arise next year.

…She said her bill would give public input “more effect” on the commission’s approval process. What that looks like is still unclear, though she discussed a new timeline to ensure public input doesn’t come at the “11th hour,” as she believes it did during the recent review of social studies books.

“Public input seemed to be more like an afterthought, or maybe as much of a courtesy, but certainly had no effect on their approval of the books,” Gresham said.

Others like Cardoza-Moore believe a law might be in order to hold publishing companies financially and legally responsible for content.

She and others believe books produced by Pearson in particular are filled with inaccuracies and bias. Pearson, which has its head office in London, published the book that Cardoza-Moore claimed was anti-Semitic. The same company, one of the largest brands in education today, produces tests associated with new Common Core academic standards and has started to become a target of Common Core critics nationally.

“Pearson is not a U.S.-based company and is not interested in the American way of thinking,” she said. “If we’re paying millions of dollars for textbooks, should they not be accurate and vetted for bias?”

Pearson spokeswoman Susan Aspey disagreed, saying her company is committed to presenting balanced, unbiased and accurate programs that align with the state’s curriculum requirements.

Senate Committee Chairs: ‘Changes must be made’ to Textbook Commission

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) today released a letter written to members of the state’s Board of Education asking the panel to reexamine the use of the approved list of textbooks for K-12 public schools. The letter was written after a two-day hearing on the structure and function of the State Textbook Commission where lawmakers heard testimony from parents and concerned citizens regarding controversial interpretations of historical facts in textbooks approved by the panel and adopted by the State Board of Education.

Last week’s meetings follow a Sunset Review hearing for Tennessee’s Textbook Commission held on June 19 by the Education, Health and General Welfare Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations where similar facts were presented by concerned parents.

“The several hours of testimony brought to light and confirmed many of the same issues raised in June: the process design is flawed,” Gresham and Bell said in the letter. “Corrections must be made.” (Note: PDF of the letter available by clicking on this link: Textbook_Hearings_Letter_to_TN_Board_of_Ed_11-6-13

“Troubling revelations came to light from both oral and written testimony, which described inaccuracies, biases, and outright fabrications in many of the Social Studies textbooks reviewed in the current cycle,” the letter continued. “Over 500 pages of public comments detailing these concerns are available for review on the Department of Education’s website. Astonishingly, notwithstanding the commission’s knowledge of major discrepancies in fact and presentation, the current list of proposed texts was nevertheless approved by the State Board of Education on October 25, 2013.”
Continue reading

Conservative activists complain of liberal, anti-Christian bias in TN textbooks

From Richard Locker of the Commercial Appeal:
NASHVILLE – Eight parents and conservative activists complained to a state legislative committee Tuesday about what they called liberal and anti-Christian bias in Tennessee public-school textbooks.

The eight, which included at least two who said they home school their children, called themselves “citizen reviewers” of textbooks and said they represented about 180 people.

Testifying before the Senate Education Committee, members of the group took turns citing phrases and excerpts, mostly from history and social studies textbooks, that they found objectionable — or as Jackie Archer of Murfreesboro called “alarming material.”

Claudia Henneberry, a retired social studies teacher from Franklin, read from a long list of examples of what she called bias against white people, particularly southern white men.

“We have a lot of the word ‘white’ used. ‘White people pushed the Indian off their land’,” she read, adding, “The implication here is that the whites were not truly American, that only natives were American.”

Henneberry also cited examples of what she called the “free market capitalism versus socialism idea,” and said “capitalism is portrayed as unfair in these books, most of them, and the wealth as greedy, whereas socialism and other shades of socialism are shown as preferable.”

She read a passage in which she said “property is defined as giving its owner political power and the liberty to do whatever he or she wants. At the same time, the ownership of property immediately creates inequality in society. I was devastated by that comment; I thought it was over the top,” Henneberry said.

She also found objectionable a passage saying “Human activity since the beginning of industrialization has altered the earth’s climate,” which she said links “industrialization to climate change.”

The focus of much of the committee’s examination is the state’s textbook approval process, which several senators said they want to change.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, said after the 4½-hour hearing that she was “stunned” by the examples of bias the heard.

“I got a sense that members of the committee … think the state textbook commission is not fixable and that we need to start over from square one,” she said. During the hearing, she said lawmakers who have passed on to state education officials examples of objectionable material from parents and others are “not assured that that … has any impact and so we want to make sure re really have an impact on what is in our textbooks.”

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he also wants “something that gives the legislature some input in the process – maybe not approval (of textbooks) but maybe a rejection process.”
Continue reading

Senate textbook topics: Bible, fantasies and untrained, often absent commissioners

Topics in a state Senate hearing on selecting books for Tennessee schools Monday ranged from the Bible and “rape fantasies” to State Textbook Commission whose members get little training and sometimes do not show up for meetings.

The joint session of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Government Operations Committee continues today with members hopeful of recommending changes in the textbook selection process.

The State Textbook Commission, which has 10 members appointed by the governor, decides whether to recommend approval of textbooks to the state Board of Education. It oversees 27 book reviewers, all teachers, who are assigned to read and rate books submitted for approval by publishers – at least 94 in this year’s review of social studies texts. Local school boards may then choose from the list.

The only text rejected this year was one that included “a passage on rape fantasies that I thought was inappropriate for high school students,” said Dan Lawson, superintendent of Tullahoma City Schools and a member of the panel. He could not recall the title of the advanced placement psychology book.

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, cited a 2010 Knox County controversy over a biology text that included a reference to creationism “the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in seven days.” The school board ultimately approved the book despite parent protests.

Campfield said that was frustrating to parents who felt “they might as well be speaking to the wind” and suggested there should be “an avenue” giving more strength to public sentiment.
Continue reading