America’s classroom culture wars broke out again this week after a vote by the Texas Board of Education to rewrite the standards for high school social studies courses in the largest single US market for textbooks.
A conservative group on the board voted through revisions that opponents said would challenge the Founding Fathers’ belief in the separation of church and state, play up Republican leadership and play down negative connotations about the word “capitalist” by replacing it with talk of the “free-enterprise society”.
The dispute has sparked headlines around the country about a “Texas textbook massacre”. It was featured by Jon Stewart, Comedy Central late-night television satirist, under the caption “Don’t mess with textbooks”, a reference to the state’s old “Don’t mess with Texas” bumper stickers.
For the publishing industry, however, the news is both wearily familiar and a sign of how much the textbook business has changed. Battles over subjects from evolution to Civil War history have become almost annual events, not least in Texas.