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.”
“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.”
Among examples of controversial textbook content provided to committee members was a social studies book heralding the One Child Policy in China. “After a quarter-century of intensive educational programs, as well as coercion, the Chinese people have accepted the benefits of family planning,” the book said. The textbook cited “the benefits” after explaining that to discourage births, “people receive free contraceptives, abortions, and sterilizations and that the “rules are enforced by a government agency, the State family Planning Commission.”
Similarly, another textbook approved on the list when defining capitalism stated, “ownership of property immediately creates inequality in society.”
Another public textbook described the Iran-based Martyr’s Foundation as a group which “supports 188,000 people by giving aid, priority admission for education, in-kind transfers, housing services and other benefits.” The Foundation, which provides aid to families of suicide bombers, was targeted by the U.S. Department of Treasury for providing financial support to Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations.
“Putting these textbooks in the hands of our children would not be in their best interest and is completely unacceptable,” Senators Gresham and Bell continued.
The state’s Textbook Commission is composed of ten members whose responsibility is to recommend an official list of textbooks for approval of the State Board of Education. The Commission is up for review under the state’s Sunset law.
“The State Board of Education and the State Textbook Commission were created by the General Assembly. It is our responsibility to fix problems when we find them. These are serious matters that require our attention and action in the coming months. In the meantime, we strongly encourage the board to reexamine the use of the approved list of textbooks and we welcome your input and suggestions moving forward,” they concluded.
Senator Gresham represents Senate District 26 which includes Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy, and Henderson Counties, while Senator Bell represents Senate District 9 which includes Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties.