Commentary: Ridiculous claims of pro-Islamic agenda in world history books

Members of the Texas State Board of Education must be craving attention.

The uproar they caused over social-studies curriculum standards has barely died down and now they're considering warning textbook publishers not to give Islam more lines of type than Christianity.

And if the board approves a resolution on their meeting agenda later this week, members will have given enormous influence to a former board candidate who couldn't even win a Republican primary.

The claims by failed candidate Randy Rives of Odessa that "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias" has tainted Texas world history textbooks are based on a false premise. And his concerns focus on books that aren't even being used in Texas classrooms.

Still, it's possible the board will uncritically accept as fact his assertions about "gross pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions in world history texts."

The resolution before the board is almost verbatim what Rives presented during public comment at a July meeting. It states that the board will reject books that "offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one of more of them."

The resolution even parrots Rives' incendiary and misleading warning that "more such discriminatory treatment" could occur "as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly."

Certainly, Texas schools should be presenting students with the most accurate, complete, balanced and age-appropriate information possible. And care is particularly needed with subjects that are most likely to be sensitive, complex and nuanced.

Distortions, stereotypes and euphemisms disserve enlightened education and can be dangerous.

But Rives' "evidence" is both dubious and flawed.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.star-telegram.com.