State school board postpones textbook vote
by Tim Lockette
Dec 13, 2013 | 3833 views |  0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama State Board of Education postponed a decision on proposed social studies textbooks Thursday after conservative groups complained about the depiction of Islam and Christianity in several of the books under consideration.

The board had planned to hear recommendations from a state committee that has spent months looking at possible textbooks for use in social studies classes. Superintendent Tommy Bice asked for a postponement after the groups Eagle Forum and ACT for America complained of alleged pro-Muslim and anti-Christian bias in 12 of the textbooks, all of which were produced by major textbook publishers. Most of the disputed textbooks were for seventh, eighth and ninth grades.

Larry Houck, president of ACT for America, said the books' passages on Christianity implied doubt about the divinity of Jesus.

"They said 'Jesus walked the earth teaching his ideas,'" Houck said. "That's just an insult."

Bice described the objections as "last-minute," and said the board needs time to consider them. School officials supplied The Star with a packet of textbook reviews supplied by ACT for America and Eagle Forum, which was dated Dec. 4.

School board member Ella Bell said that while she welcomed a debate about textbooks, most of the criticisms she'd heard to date were short on details. Bell said she is a Christian, but isn't opposed to learning about other religions.

"My religion stands toe-to-toe with any religion, and I am not intimidated, because I have faith," she said.

Bice said he will read the textbooks in question during the holiday break. He said he hoped the board would have a healthy debate on the books after the break. Rushing to a vote, he said, wouldn't help.

"It creates an unintended us-versus-them, and nobody wins in that situation," he said.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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