Houston-area schools scramble to pull textbook downplaying slavery

Monday, October 5, 2015
Schools scramble to pull textbook downplaying slavery
Textbooks at one Pearland school called slaves 'workers' and interpreted slavery as 'immigration.'

PEARLAND, TX (KTRK) -- The publisher of a high school textbook that referred to slaves brought to America as "workers" is apologizing and says more diversity will be added to review boards.

McGraw-Hill has been under fire since Pearland mother, Roni Dean-Burren, posted her disbelief on social media about the wording in her 15-year-old son's world geography textbook.

Dean-Burren had no idea her video would get so much attention.

"I thought it was worthy of that because I think that's a really big deal," she says. "That's just a level of sort of minimizing history or telling the story in a way that suits the winners."

Her son is one of thousands of students in the Houston area who use this particular McGraw-Hill World Geography textbook. State education officials say roughly a quarter of the state's 1,200 school districts are using digital or physical versions of the book in classrooms this year.

In the Houston area, Spring ISD has the digital and hard copy, but has pulled the hard copy. Klein and Clear Creek ISDs only use the digital version. And CyFair ISD also uses the digital version, but has a handful of hard copies. Those have been pulled.

Houston city councilman, and former chairman of the State Board of Education, Jack Christie says some factions have been trying to change the language of history for years.

"This is just a symptom of what they were doing to try to cleanse. And the textbook publishers have to do what these members demand of the textbooks," he says.

Even if it softens the reality.

"It's like making sausage. You come out with a product that a lot of 'experts' put together. Sometimes the politics of it can cause an abrasion in that intellectual process," says Christie.

"Slavery was not the best part of history. It was not a happy story," adds TSU professor Dr. Bernnell Peltier-Glaze. "But it was in fact something that did happen, and it contributed to the success of America today."

Dr. Peltier-Glaze is the Associate Dean of TSU's College of Education. Not knowing which other books misrepresent slavery in the same way, she says it's up to teachers to stand up for right.

"When they come across a mistake, such as the one in the textbook, they should be the ones who challenge it. And they should take a stand and say I'm not going to teach incorrect information," she says.

Below is a memo McGraw-Hill Education's President/CEO sent to employees:

The company has proposed three options to correct the mistake:

1) Opaque override stickers with revised language to cover the existing caption on page 126, or

2) Opaque override stickers with revised language paired with a lesson that teachers can utilize to facilitate classroom dialogue on the topics of communication, language awareness, and cultural competency, or

3) Replacement Student Edition Textbooks

Pearland ISD also sent a statement about its future use of the book: "In Pearland ISD, textbooks are used as a resource and do not drive the curriculum. We're proud that our teachers serve as the primary resource for information on the curriculum in which they teach.

High school social studies teachers will utilize different resources in teaching that content until an update has been made to the McGraw-Hill World Geography textbook."