Sanitized textbooks are just plain dumbThe Texas Taliban, AKA the Texas Board of Education, has done it again, foisting its views on school districts across the nation by dictating sanitized textbook content to publishers.

Texas virtually sets national standards for the textbooks used in many states because it has the largest school system that approves specific books for all grade levels. Because it is uneconomical to customize textbooks for smaller states, public and private schools outside Texas are often left with little choice but to buy the books designed for Texan sensibilities.

Dominated by religious conservatives, the Texas Board of Education has successfully bullied publishers on a variety of subjects for years, demanding changes that align textbooks with their narrow idea of morality.

On Nov. 5, according to the Dallas Morning News, Texas adopted new health textbooks that promote traditional marriage and sexual abstinence, while providing almost no information about contraception, condoms and other sex- related topics. Overriding strong objections from in-state critics, a majority of board members said it is unnecessary to provide such information.

Is it any wonder Texas leads the nation in teenage births?

In a nation in which it is an unavoidable fact that teenagers are tending to become more sexually active, it's just plain dumb to deny them straightforward information on how to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

As a method of solving these problems, simply telling teens not to engage in sex has been consistently shown ineffective, according to an authority quoted by the Dallas newspaper. Some programs that may help delay sexual initiation among teens are ineligible for federal funding because they also include information on condoms and contraceptives.

It obviously is desirable for parents and teachers to set moral standards for children. But we do teenagers a disservice when we allow Texas bureaucrats or the federal government to whitewash the facts of life in ways young people know to be false, misleading or incomplete.

The Texas board also succeeded in having publishers clearly define marriage as a "lifelong union" between a man and a woman, and eliminate any language like "partners" and "couples" that board members feared might imply tolerance for same-sex civil unions. Publishers rejected pressure to include language that gays and lesbians are more likely to use illegal drugs and commit suicide.

Teaching positive values is one thing, while teaching ridiculous bigotry is something else. Textbooks publishers ought to stand their ground more often.


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