Religion in Society

Christmas & Rosh Hashanah Remain in Texas Textbooks

| by Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas --- Christmas and Rosh Hashanah will remain in Texas social studies textbooks, members of the Texas State Board of Education said on Sept. 17 during a review of proposed new standards.

The 15-member elected board, which approves curriculum and textbook standards for the state's public schools and holds national sway because Texas is the second-largest textbook purchaser behind California, held its first public hearing on proposed changes offered by 124 educators and a six-member review panel appointed by board members.

According to news reports prior to the meeting, several members of the review panel had advocated removing Christmas and the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, keeping only Easter and Yom Kippur as holidays representing the two dominant American religions.

In place of Christmas and Rosh Hashanah, the San Antonio Express-News reported, some on the panel wished to include Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus and some sects of Buddhists.

At the hearing on Sept. 17, members of the review panel quickly backpedaled, with one of the panel members admitting the proposed deletions were a mistake that drew the ire of her own mother, according to a live blog posted by Jonathan Saentz, legislative director of the conservative Free Market Foundation based in Plano, Texas.

The El Paso Times editorialized: "This country is not equally divided among the world's five major religions. Teach about all major religious holidays in our schools, but don't take out two of this country's biggest -- Christmas and Rosh Hashanah -- just to even the playing field."

An early suggestion to remove mention of farm worker advocate Cesar Chavez and the first African American Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, from the standards was also dismissed by board members. Marshall was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that led to public school desegregation.

Republican board member Teri Leo told the Express-News there would be more, not less, "coverage of minority historical figures" when the new standards are in place during the 2011-12 school year.

In addition to credentialed academics, the review panel includes two evangelical ministers: Massachusetts-based Peter Marshall and David Barton of the WallBuilders organization based in Aledo, Texas. Barton is a former vice chair of the Texas Republican Party.

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