November 06, 2013
Inside this issue
  Once again, parents Showed Up and Showed Out!!  
From Left:  Laurie Cardoza Moore, Julie West, Barbara Sturgeon, Claudia Henneberry, Hal Rounds and Lisa Moore.

So Proud of the parents and activists who testified before the Sen. Education Committee about bias, imbalance, errors, etc., that they found in the Social Studies Textbooks that were up for adoption this year. It was CLEAR that the committee members were stunned at the findings. Thanks to the hard work of these reviewers and others, you can be sure that we will have legislation in January deal with the process. For those that sometimes get discouraged and think that 'it doesn't matter, I cannot make a real difference.' Pay attention here.  The 'non-professional' (with incredible, impressive, credentials, I might add), unpaid, reviewers who drove long distances, sat for hours reading books, page by page, DID make a difference and because of their commitment and dedication BIG changes will be coming in January!!  Thank you, thank you to all to participated!!

The other HUGE thing that came out of the hearing was that we don't have to 'reinvent the wheel'  From presenter Jeremy Anderson, President, Education Commission of the States, we learned that Tennessee is not the only state wrestling with this important issue.  We also learned that Utah and Virginia have what appears to be excellent, workable processes in place that we can look to as models.

HOWEVER:  The real battle has now moved to the local boards of education.  We were told repeatedly that it is the local people who are responsible for to review the textbooks for bias, balance, etc. Well....force their hand. One of the things that came out of the process was that all of these reviews are supposed to be sent to the local boards along with the approved list.  So, they should have the reviews, it is up to local parents and activists to hold their feet to the fire.


  Tennessee lawmakers challenge textbook choices  
NASHVILLE — State lawmakers hit the books on Monday, or rather the state Textbook Commission, as they began hearings on complaints raised by social conservatives about some instructional materials approved by the state for public schools.

Along the way they swerved into a lack of public input as well as the Bible, creationism, "rape fantasies" in a proposed psychology book for high schoolers and no real training for commission members.

"I know that I'm here because of the concerns that I've heard from people around this state who have been looking into our children's textbooks and have seen issues with accuracy and with bias," said Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, at the outset of the joint meeting with the Education Committee.

The 10-member Textbook Commission is comprised of educators appointed by the governor to recommend books to the State Board of Education, which when approved puts them on the official list of books from which local school districts select for use for their students.

Commissioners' actions are based on the work of 27 reviewers, all licensed teachers, who read and evaluate proposed books from publishers.

State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, questioned the public review process. He cited a controversy in Knox County over a biology book which the lawmaker noted "more or less said creationism is a myth." Members of the public objected to that, said Campfield.

"The school board said, 'OK, that's nice. We've heard from you. We're keeping the book.'"

Campfield suggested critics be given the ability to torpedo a local district's choice through petition.

Earlier, two top state Education Department officials outlined recommendations to address some issues. They included improving the public's ability to review proposed books, expanding the "provider pipeline" of textbook companies and doing away with an expensive state bonding requirement.

The bonds of up to $1 million discourage smaller companies from entering Tennessee's market and lowering the costs of books, said Emily Barton, the department's assistant commissioner for curriculum and instruction. The department has already moved to lower it and is exploring other options.

Barton also said there is "a need for a stronger public review process" making it easier for parents to review proposed books. The state is looking at making them available for review online



  Tennessee Activists Complain Textbooks Riddled With Liberal Bias  

Conservative activists who’ve been voluntarily reviewing Tennessee textbooks say many have an underhanded, liberal slant. Several signed up to speak at a legislative hearing Tuesday where they said their biggest beef with new history books may be crimes of omission.

It’s spending three chapters on Islam and a few pages on Christianity, or mentioning the increased deficit under President Ronald Reagan and glossing over the decreased federal spending.

Murfreesboro resident Jackie Archer says her group reviewed all 94 social studies books being considered this year by the state Textbook Commission. They only approve of eight.

“The norm seemed to be to tell the one side of an issue that suits the author’s ideology and to totally ignore significant parts of history that do not,” Archer told the Senate Education Committee.

Activists did point to a few specific passages. One from an Advanced Placement textbook says well-off Americans tend to identify with the Republican Party. The less well-off are generally represented by Democrats.

Sumner County social studies teacher Kevin Kelly doesn’t see the claim as factually incorrect. He is one of the state’s professional textbook reviewers who make recommendations to the full commission.

“I don’t think that it’s something that isn’t supported by research,” he told the panel.

But the mostly Republican lawmakers at the hearing shook their heads in disagreement.

Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) asked, “What do we do? We don’t want kids reading that passage tomorrow morning.”

Scrapping The Commission

State lawmakers are considering scrapping the state textbook panel altogether for something entirely different.

“This can’t be fixed,” said Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), who heads the Government Operations Committee.



  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 ofd 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.



  Lawmakers review role of Tennessee Textbook Commission  

Parents claiming that some textbooks being used in state schools are biased say they’re open to a stronger public review process, which state education officials acknowledge is needed to improve the current process for choosing books.

Several parents spoke Tuesday during a hearing of the Senate Education Committee that is reviewing the role of the Tennessee Textbook Commission, which recommends its selection of books to the State Board of Education. Local school systems then choose which textbooks to adopt from the official state textbook list.

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, said one remedy would be to allow more public input by instituting online reviews “so that all citizens can have equal access to reviewing these materials and sharing their comments and feedback.”

She also suggested making sure that publishers see the comments and have adequate time to make changes before the books are distributed.

“We came into this process very eager to work with the Legislature to strengthen this,” Barton said after the meeting. “We think that there are a number of ways that the process can be strengthened to produce better products.”

The textbook selection panel is comprised of 10 members, nine of whom are appointed by the governor. Some of the parents said they’d like to see more parental representation on the panel, particularly since it was parents like those in Williamson County that raised the questions initially.

“They have a vested interest,” said Michelle Farnham, one of a number of parents who attended the meeting. “My daughter will be in public schools at some point and I want to make sure they (books) are up to standard.”




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Senate Hearing on Textbook Adoption

Senate Education Committee Chairman Greshman makes opening statment. Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell listens.

Senators Dolores Gresham, Mike Bell, Reggie Tate.

Senators Joey Hensley, Todd Gardenhire, Steve Dickerson.

Senators John Steven, Jack Johnson, Ferrell Haile.

Senators Brian Kelsey, Joey Hensley, Todd Gardenhire, Steve Dickerson.