I'm from Missouri

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Urban myth that Texas has "outsized influence" over textbooks adopted elsewhere

An article in the Washington Times repeated the urban myth that the Texas state board of education has "outsized influence" over the content of textbooks adopted in other states:

Battles over textbooks are nothing new, especially in Texas, where bitter skirmishes regularly erupt over everything from sex education to phonics and new math. But never before has the board’s right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the state’s standards. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”

Until recently, Texas’s influence was balanced to some degree by the more-liberal pull of California, the nation’s largest textbook market. But its economy is in such shambles that California has put off buying new books until at least 2014. This means that McLeroy and his ultraconservative crew have unparalleled power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.

This post and this post debunk this idea that Texas has "outsized influence" over textbooks adopted elsewhere. And even in Texas, local school boards are free to choose state-unapproved textbooks if the boards pay for them. And BTW, California does not have statewide textbook adoption at the high-school level.

Why can't reporters be better informed and/or more honest?

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