Shades Of Texas

Back before the Internet and e-books, when school textbooks were hard-back volumes printed by educational publishers, Texas had a wildly disproportionate influence on the lessons those books conveyed. Even then, Texas was an anti-intellectual wasteland, but because of its size–and the need to standardize publication of schoolbooks nationally– it had an outsized influence on what went into the nation’s textbooks. (I often think we should give Texas back to Mexico, but they probably wouldn’t take it…)

Today, of course, school districts have access to a wider variety of educational resources, so the minority of Americans who are firmly opposed to giving children an accurate understanding of history or science have pursed a different tactic: educational vouchers. Vouchers–as readers of this blog are aware–allow parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private–almost always religious–schools, a large number of which use textbooks that are even less accurate than those once influenced by Texas.

Time Magazine recently reported on the most widely-used of those “textbooks.”

The report began by noting that the singer-songwriter who wrote the controversial “Try that in a small town” shouldn’t have been so surprised by the outcry the song triggered. After all, he’d attended a religious school that used

textbooks produced by Abeka, a publishing company that has long been part of the effort among conservative institutions to teach an airbrushed version of history—one that presents a narrow vision of a heroic, Christian, capitalist America. For the most part, these books have been limited to private schools and homeschools, though the founders of these networks always hoped to influence public life…

Abeka’s roots go back to the 1925 Scopes Trial, which pitted evolutionary science and expert academic knowledge against local control and religious dogma. After the trial, which produced reams of journalistic mockery of conservative religion, prominent fundamentalists like Bob Jones Sr. decided that America needed a new kind of educational institution, one free from the influence of mainstream academic expertise. He founded Bob Jones College in Florida (now Bob Jones University in South Carolina) to provide white conservative Christians with a “fighting base.”

Eventually, even Bob Jones University was deemed too “progressive” by religious fanatics, and a network of white-dominated private religious schools grew rapidly.

These schools promised to maintain prayer and traditional teaching. Most importantly, they promised a refuge from court-ordered desegregation efforts. These schools needed textbooks that would teach the lessons that parents who opposed such measures wanted their children to learn.

In response, Abeka expanded its publishing efforts. The company eventually published original textbooks in every subject, for every grade. The goal was to provide an alternative kind of curriculum, one that—in the words of one Abeka leader in 1979—would teach students to cherish the Bible, “master the three R’s,” maintain a healthy “respect for authority,” and develop “pride in America.”

As the Time article notes, Abeka textbooks teach a history that is “dramatically distinct from mainstream books.”  They omit the violence that doomed Reconstruction, instead explaining that it failed because many formerly enslaved people were “not prepared for political responsibility.” “The book does briefly note that “some Southern whites used illegal methods” and “terror tactics,” including forming the KKK. Yet, that mention of white terrorism is buried within an overall message of white victimhood.”

In 2019, Abeka’s texts were used by a majority of America’s 1,689,726 homeschooled students plus nearly three-quarters of a million students in conservative Christian private schools. It isn’t just Abeka–Hillsdale College and PragerU, among others, produce wildly slanted versions of America’s history, and have been making inroads in even public schools in Red States.

And it isn’t just history: textbook publishers serving these Christian voucher schools also produce anti-Darwin, anti-evolution. “science” books.

In 2010, NBC reported that Christian-based materials that omit any mention of evolution had come to dominate the home-school education market; that year, that market was more than 1.5 million students. As the article notes, most home-school parents want a “Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation.”

“Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling,” says the introduction to “Biology: Third Edition” from Bob Jones University Press. “This book was not written for them.”

The textbook delivers a religious ultimatum to young readers and parents, warning in its “History of Life” chapter that a “Christian worldview … is the only correct view of reality; anyone who rejects it will not only fail to reach heaven but also fail to see the world as it truly is.”

That is the worldview being supported by Hoosier tax dollars that have been siphoned off and sent to “voucher” schools by Indiana’s legislators.

And we wonder why educated people leave Indiana…


  1. Having taught science in Texas for 5 years, I can tell you first-hand how strongly influenced church-going parents are regarding texts and curriculum. Even though, in more enlightened times, the Texas state board of education REQUIRED the teaching of the basic principles of evolutionary biology. BUT parents badgered science teachers all the time about that subject – even though they knew not a whit of what it entailed or meant. Typical of the “small town” mentality.

    I was assigned to choose the science textbook for two of the districts in which I taught. I chose the best illustrated and most accurate book of the three I was told to review. My basis for choosing centered around a book that would provide the necessary material for the “average” student as well as more challenging topics for the higher achievers. BUT the district chose the weakest of the books for reasons pertaining to the damned standardized tests. The state of Texas spent $400 million per year on standardized tests that proved NOTHING, showed NO improvement over the years and, in the case of science, was 20% inaccurate.

    Yeah. Texas. Racing backward toward their lily-white Christian caves as fast as their church-run oxcarts can carry them.

  2. Where are all the intelligent Hoosier parents? I assume there are some remaining. What about Texas Vernon? Aren’t there any remaining?

    When I attend the school board, it’s only the BSU Politburo and the MAGA crowd. All the sensible and intelligent parents avoid the meetings.

    We will not make any progress against these numbskulls unless we outnumber them in volume at school board meetings.

    It’s time the white hats show up and make noise. Lots of it!!

  3. I saw a bumper sticker last year that perfectly states my feelings when I read about education and other important topics: “Where are we going and why am I in this hand basket?” That pretty much says it all. Look forward to reading your brilliant articles, Sheila

  4. I’ve always hated the phrase “mastering the three R’s”. It reeks of ignorance and condescension, but I guess it’s catchier than saying “mastering the RWA’s”.

  5. Todd,

    Actually, about 40% of the Texans I met were all in for complete, challenging education. The demographic was that the middle and upper socio-economic groups were great supporters of teachers and the education system. BUT the more church-oriented used their religion as cudgels against the meek and mild administrators to push their agendas. Sadly, once again religion in the wrong hands comes to the rescue of doing what is right.

  6. Teaching mythology about mythology: “Inerrant” word of just how many historic revisions of what has been allowed in the bible?

  7. There is a strong tradition of seeing children as belonging to their parents in the sense of being property, to be reared entirely as the parents want. And what is the alternative? Having the State control their upbringing?
    Perhaps this is one of those issues where conflict is inevitable and balance is always challenged.
    The good news is that children have their own brains and have a chance to overcome even poor parenting as long as it doesn’t actually kill them.

  8. running across texas and stopping where needed,anywhere, for whatevers while driving truck. yall get a fast insight to the whole picture. texas, and dont forget okey and kansass, arkansaw.
    your greated smiley face and howdy. I can like that. but down in conversation with said folk. as working class mind ya. it doesnt take long to relize they havent travled far from said above school books,church or,life. I may come across to many here as somewhere in thier shadow. nope.
    being they stay close to thier border(mindset) and dare to venture out from it, is like dating another race. ive spent 40 years travleing out and into places in Hexas that even a rattlesnake would fear. those redneck roadside dives i find parking at,( look around sometimes ,anywhere else,all those no truck parking signs in your burg) makes me feel right at home eh? cold beer and some conversation. maybe some good BBQ. atleast i have a place to,park. its easy to talk to them,agree,if all else is too far out there. friendly for the most part. seems texas education has left the many next to 8th grade for life. insight from the road, best wishes yall..

  9. If interested in learning how school vouchers affect every school district within Indiana, Dr. Phil Downs’ website contains data for several years. It also contains google sheets that list the financial impact of every public school system in Indiana.

    Links to his website and an in-depth interview with WANE-TV are below:

  10. This book is an excellent detailed review of the types of curriculums that you are discussing.
    Hijacking History: How the Christian Right Teaches History and Why It Matters
    by Kathleen Wellman.

  11. For those curious about where our taxpayer-funded voucher money went in the 2022-2023 school year in Indianapolis, read on for Marion County Schools that received the most voucher money…(Data from the Indiana Dept of Education)

    Roncalli Catholic High School — $4.2m
    Heritage Christian School — $3.7m
    Cardinal Ritter Catholic High School — $3.3m
    Suburban Christian School — $3.1m
    Cathedral Catholic High School — $2.8m
    Scecina Memorial Catholic High School — $2.7m
    Saint Mark Catholic School (PreK-8) — $2.1m
    MTI Islamic School of Knowledge (K-12) — $2.1m
    Bishop Chatard Catholic High School — $2.0m
    Holy Spirit Catholic School (PreK-8) — $1.8m

  12. Todd said it! Go to that school board meeting and be heard. Down here in good old, sunny Southwest Florida, the radical right takes over, not because they have more supporters, but because they are louder, get up in people’s faces and threaten. We need more people to have backbone transplants.

  13. I posted this on “What’s Wrong with These People” thinking it was today’s blog.
    I still think my message was important, so here it is again:

    Ian — thank you for demonstrating Sheila’s main premise today. I love Show and Tell!

    I bought a stack of postcards today that I will be addressing and sending to voters in Ohio to remind them to vote in November. If you want to do some writing, besides what you do on this blog, to get out the vote, this website is a good place to start:
    There are campaigns/elections going on in different areas of the country and folks need to get a written reminder to get out and vote. You get a script to follow and everything you need to do this except the postcards. 20 stamped cards is $11. (Research has shown the hand written postcards work.)

    Vernon said, “How do we change that set-up? By getting off our asses and registering real, thinking voters . . . . ” I’m getting off my ass to do my little bit to GET OUT THE VOTE!” 🙂

  14. Well,

    They say if you lay down with dogs you get fleas. But, you’ve got to have a dog in that fight even lay down with it. Besides, fleas are pretty easy to get rid of, you put a pot of water down, and they drown themselves!

    If you’re figuring on getting rid of the fleas, make sure that dog can hunt! It’ll let you know exactly where the fleas are.

    The wise man dies along with the stupid, not knowing what will become of his possessions, and his human wisdom ceases in the grave. (Ec 2:3-11, 16, 18-21; 4:4; 9:10; Ps 49:10.) … For the wise man’s eyes “are in his head,” serving his intellectual powers, whereas the stupid man’s eyes do not see with thoughtful discernment. (Ec 2:12-14; Pr 17:24; Mt 6:22, 23.)

    The stupid really are not in the minority, and to preserve yourself, we all need to steer clear.

  15. If textbooks are not acknowledging the fact that we now live in a multipolar world, then they are ostensibly outdated.

  16. By and large, funding home schooling an Christian Madrases, er, “academies,” is theft of dollars from public education. This is, of course, is in addition to flat-out right wing propaganda.

    Amos—or was Andy—might say “I is regusted!”

Comments are closed.