Remember the couple that make national news because of their work reviewing Texas textbooks?
At their kitchen table, they founded the nonprofit Educational Research Analysts to examine textbooks eligible for adoption. They soon became well known statewide, often journeying to Austin to testify before the State Board of Education and confront publishers with their objections. After a few years, they were doing lectures and making appearances across the country and were almost as well known as Phyllis Schlafly, an opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, or James Dobson, founder of the Christian organization Focus on the Family.
A few years later, Mr. Gabler complained that textbooks were indoctrinating children with a philosophy of humanism that was alien to mainstream America. He also protested the influence of the women’s liberation movement, which, he said, had “totally distorted male and female roles, making the women masculine and the men effeminate.”
Well, the organization they founded, Educational Research Analysts, is still carrying on it’s mission to catch factual errors in the name of advancing their conservative, Christian ideology in the public schools.
Mel left in place the rule that however many 2+2=5-type factual errors we find in textbooks, they are but means to our chief end of critiquing textbooks’ substantive subject-matter content as Christian conservatives, whose thoroughness and knowledgeability our error lists just confirm.
And on what basis do they critique the subject-matter content? The following are some of their sample standard review criteria:
Story content should present:
A universe that rewards virtue and punishes vice, where good and evil are not moral equivalents, and where problems have solutions.
Diverse views on current controversial issues, when raided (e.g., “global warming,” feminism, naturalistic origins myths like evolution)
No sensational violence, offensive language or illustrations, occultism, or deviant lifestyles (e.g., homosexuality)
No pattern of pejoratives stigmatizing one group and superlatives idealizing another
No politically-correct steroetypes of oppressors and/or victims by race, class, or gender.
So no grappling with intractable problems for high schoolers studying literature. No readings from the slave’s perspective or those from women or poor people. Unless they happen to be very content with their station in life.
I can’t figure out why they would want diverse views of controversial issues if all problems have a solution. Doesn’t that mean there isn’t more than one side to a story after all?
My point is that this group is still here, still active. It’s just not in the public spotlight as it once has been.
You no longer testify at the Texas State Board of Education annual textbook adoption public hearings. Why?
Lowering our voice and working under opponents’ radar gets better results.
Under the direction of Frey, who is assisted by his wife, Judy, the textbook shop has steadily evolved from the Gablers’ era. While Mel and Norma issued textbook reviews as near-celebrities, storming public hearings and sitting for interviews with Phil Donahue and “60 Minutes,” Frey, a former college professor, works in near-anonymity, making his points through the faxes and newsletters he sends to subscribers and textbook decisionmakers.
The State Board of Education elections matter. There isn’t anywhere near as much money involved in the campaigns but the stakes are much higher–the education of your children and the future health of our democracy.