Texas Mother Wins Fight Against Textbook Company McGraw-Hill that ‘Erased’ Slavery

© Pat Sullivan/AP Photo Roni Dean-Burren poses on the campus of the University oh Houston Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, in Houston. Dean-Burren is asking publisher McGraw-Hill Education to change the text in a geography book that refers to slaves…
© Pat Sullivan/AP Photo Roni Dean-Burren poses on the campus of the University oh Houston Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, in Houston. Dean-Burren is asking publisher McGraw-Hill Education to change the text in a geography book that refers to slaves…

A Texas mom shocked that her son’s textbook merely called African slaves “workers” is thrilled that publisher McGraw-Hill has promised revisions. But changing a single caption is hardly enough to combat what some educational experts call a wave of ideologically-fueled school standards that downplay the role of race and slavery in shaping America today.

Roni Dean-Burren was horrified when her son sent her a snapchat of his McGraw-Hill World Geography textbook, an edition created especially for Texas’ new state standards adopted in 2010. Opening up to a graphic titled “Patterns of Immigration,” he snapped a photo of the map’s caption. The caption reads:

The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.

Examining his book more closely, Ms. Dean-Burren realized that although European indentured servants are described as working for “little or no pay,” there was no further mention of black slaves; their presence is simply portrayed as part of “immigration.”

“Erasure is real y’all!!! Teach your children the truth!!!” she commented alongside a video of the textbook, which has already been viewed more than 1.6 million times on Facebook.

It certainly got McGraw-Hill’s attention. The publishing giant maintains that “This program addresses slavery in several world lessons and meets the learning objectives of the course,” but promised to clarify the caption’s language about slavery. (A full Table of Contents for this edition is not available online.)

For many historians and educators, however, the learning objectives themselves are the problem.

Texas has been held up as a prime example of many states’ abysmal social studies standards, earning a “D” in one review done by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think tank, which awarded the nation 18 “F”s, 11 “D”s, 12 “C”s, and a single, shining “A”: South Carolina.

Citing students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Institute’s writers bemoaned that the US is creating a “generation of students who don’t understand or value our own nation’s history” by relying on overly ideological curricula, influenced by both the left and the right.

“Even as the left pushes stories of American perfidy, the right counters with triumphal accounts of American perfection,” the report says, arguing that either slant handicaps students’ ability to understand the world around them.

The criticism from a conservative organization may be particularly noteworthy, since the controversial standards gaining ground in Texas (and popping up in similar debates from Colorado to Virginia) are often pushed by Republican-dominated committees and school boards, particularly when it comes to interpretations of the Civil War.

Texas Board of Education member Patricia Hardy, a Republican, believes “States’ rights were the real issues behind the Civil War. Slavery was an after issue,” according to NPR – a view shared by 48 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, and held by more people under 30 than in any other age group.

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Source: Christian Science Monitor | Molly Jackson