Textbook trouble: history & sex ed

myworld-historyThe Lee County school board will hear from concerned citizens this week about the content of history textbooks under consideration for adoption.

Board documents show nine objections have been filed for a sixth-grade world history text published by Pearson. Among the complaints for the book, called “my (sic) World History,” are allegations the text is more of a comparative study of religions and cultures as opposed to being historical in nature, and it has a pro-Islam agenda, presenting a biased view of the religion in comparison to Judaism and Christianity.

This is not a new argument. This same issue was real big in Volusia County in 2013, but I believe a different textbook and publisher was in the spotlight then. Nonetheless, the complaint then was about an alleged pro-Islam slant, too. The Volusia school district responded with a “just the facts” document explaining that there was no bias. Volusia didn’t bow to pressure and adopted the textbooks.

That controversy inspired state senator Alan Hays to file a bill that would have dumped all textbook review and selection responsibilities on the school districts, taking the state completely out of the process. (Note: Hays filed an anti-evolution “academic freedom” bill when he was in the House of Representatives in 2008.) His textbook bill passed but with substantial changes.

A new bill, on its way to Governor Scott, would make school districts give parents the chance to object to textbooks used in schools.

The Senate, on Thursday, voted 31-4 for the bill that would require districts to hold a public hearing if parents object—but it wouldn’t get rid of an existing state review of textbooks.

But the legislation will not eliminate state review of textbooks as originally sought by sponsors of the bill. Instead, school boards will continue to decide whether to review textbooks locally, or continue to rely on the state-approved list.

The Florida House rejected the elimination of the state review and instead passed a bill that creates a process that lets parents object to the textbooks. It requires school districts to hold a public hearing if someone complains about the books that are being used.

Now, in addition to the history textbook hoopla, Lee County is also facing conflicting opinions on how much sex education should be in other textbooks under review.

One objection and two responses requesting additional content were recorded for a high school health and physical education text, which was published by McGraw Hill.

The sole objection came from Marian Scirrotto, who stated the book is “inappropriate” for presenting sexual education topics, which she believes “should be discussed as a family.”

Meanwhile, the two other responses praise the books and pleaded for additional content to be addressed with students.

Lee County is in southwest Florida, containing Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

I featured Lee County for several pages in chapter 8 of Going Ape. The County tried to implement Bible classes in 1996, resulting in a lawsuit.