Texas: dumping ground for sexist texts
"Who is Miss Josie?" "She's Miss Cunningham," Mary told him. "Judge Cunningham,
really. But everyone calls her Miss Josie. She handles all the juvenile cases."
McGraw Hill, Focus, p. 40
Should you or shouldn't you change your hair color? (p. 18) Wear fresh lingerie always, (p. 23)
McGraw Hill, Applied Secretarial Procedures
Synonyms for "woman": Lady, broad, dame, chick, hen.
Silver Burdett, Contemporary English Frameworks, p. 267
Excerpts from texts submitted for adoption this year
By Gabrielle Cosgriff
Texas is becoming a dumping
ground for sexist textbooks,
warns the Texas NOW Task Force
on Sexism in Education.
"The State Board of Education
has backtracked," says Marge
Randal, task force coordinator.
"Since they have backed off from
the guidelines of two years ago, we
are seeing books up for adoption
in Texas that other states would
Those guidelines said, in part,
that textbooks should present
roles "including women in leadership and other positive roles with
which they are not traditionally
identified." That requirement has
been deleted from the present
Roger Moore, formerly a representative for Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, said he agrees with the
"dumping ground" allegation, but
only in the sense that state policy
"Texas has very conservative
textbook adoption committee
members," said Moore in an interview with the Austin American-
Stateman. "The publishers are
much more liberal."
He explained that last year
Holt had agreed to make changes
in a book at the request of
feminists, even though he claims it
costs publishers $40,000 a line to
"We were ready to go. We had
the type set. Well, the word came
down from the State Board of
Education, in their redneck
posture, that they sure as hell
weren't going to do that."
Textbooks are a multi-million
dollar business in Texas and will
cost the state more than $31 million this vear.
So publishers have a lot to gain
by selling their wares. They spend
all year wining and dining the
members of the textbook committee and turn up in force for
the August hearings in Austin.
This year was no exception.
The Texas Education Agency's
hearing rooms were packed with
witnesses and publishers' representatives;
For the fifth consecutive year,
the Texas NOW Task Force on
Sexism in Textbooks was there.
They had spent several months
preparing for this one opportunity
to persuade the committee to
reject sexist textbooks. Some 100
individuals had filed more than
130 written objections (bills of
particulars) to proposed
Writing a bill of particulars is
the first step in the adoption process. Objections must be specific
and a reviewer may not praise the
book. Only negative criticism is
allowed. The publisher is then obliged to respond just as specifically to the objections. In August,
reviewers may testify before the
adoption committee of TEA. The
committee then meets again in
September to recommend books,
V cut X
up to five in each subject, to the
State Board of Education. The
board adopts books in November
and sends the list of approved
texts to local school districts for
use in selecting classroom textbooks.
The first witnesses for the task
force were five expert witnesses,
three of them professors, one a
linguistics consultant and one an
economics consultant. They
testified on the influence of stereotyped sex roles, the economic
impact of sexism, the linguistic
mechanisms of sexism and on the
validity of the system of content
analysis used by the task force to
enumerate instances of sexism.
• Twenty-nine women and men
then testified on specific texts.
"If one were reading this book
and knew nothing about the
American economy or American
life," said Dr. Nikki Van Hightower of Lufkin's Economics and'
Freedom, "one could only assume
that females were totally irrelevant to both."
"One of the most sexist cases
I have ever seen," said Rema Lou
Brown of Delmar's Small Business
Management. "The 'old boys'
network' that keeps women out
of top jobs starts when students
are exposed to textbooks like
Time was rigidly controlled. A
large clock was projected on the
screen in front of the room and an
official timekeeper was in attendance.
The efficiency of the NOW witnesses elicited a compliment from
Robert Montgomery, chairman of
the committee: "Ms. Butler, your
presenters are very well organized," he told coordinator Twiss
Butler. "You have had more than
30 presenters and five expert witnesses and you've given us back
three minutes of your allotted
"Three and a half," Butler corrected. "I can't entirely thank the
agency for providing us with this
challenge, but I'm glad we met it."
While feminists were testifying
before half of the textbook committee, other witnesses were testifying before the other half.
"Eating babies is not funny,"
said Norma Gabler of Long view,
in her 17th annual appearance.
She was moved almost to tears as
she protested Jonathan Swift's
"A Modest Proposal," a satire
which suggests that one way of
dealing with overpopulation and
food shortages would be to breed
Irish infants as delicacies for
Mrs. R. C. Bearden,Jr. of San
Angelo, representing the Texas
Daughters of the American
Revolution, spent several hours
objecting to various texts. She was
particularly incensed by Introductory Biology published by John
Wiley and Sons. "It should be
kept out of Texas high schools,"
she said, because of its detailed
discussion of birth control.
"What about abstinence? This
is not biology. This is a lesson on
birth control," said Bearden.
For whatever reason, members
of the media who covered the
hearings seemed more attracted to
the Gabler/Bearden objections
than to charges of sexism. The
Houston papers gave approximately twice as much coverage to them
as they gave to the feminists.
KPRC-TV, the only Houston
station with an Austin correspondent, did one newscast on testifiers, mentioning the word "feminist" in the lead-in, but devoting
the body of the story to interviews with Gabler and Bearden.
The Austin American-Statesman's Jane Daugherty provided
the most balanced, detailed reporting on the hearings.
While the outcome of this year's
hearings will not be known until
November, it is apparent from the
textbooks currently in use in our
public schools that sexist texts are
still very much in evidence.
Spring Branch high schools are
studying Harcourt Brace, Jovano-
vich's Men and Nations: A World
History. In its 877 pages, one
paragraph is devoted to Queen
Elizabeth I, called "one of the
greatest of English rulers." This
contrasts with Five pages given to
Emperor Napoleon III, described
in the book as "the greatest unrecognized mediocrity in Europe."
Ninety-six percent of the names
listed in the index are male, four
percent are female. Male pronouns
are used 3,337 times, female
pronouns 113 times.
Women are only conspicuous
in this history book by their absence. No mention is made of
Mary Wollstonecraft, Abigail
Adams, Jane Austen, Sojourner
Truth, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor
Roosevelt, Golda Mier, Elizabeth II
and all the women who have
fought for equal rights with men
in this country. One paragraph is
given to women in the British suffrage movement.
This book will be studied
Rand McNally's Word Book
Spelling Program is currently in
use in the Katy ISD. The junior
high level textbook has only one
illustration which shows a female
working in other than a domestic
setting — a woman and a man
tilling the soil. It illustrates a story
on "some early man who discovered that plants grow from seeds."
The first story in the book begins "Our Boy Scout troop has
been learning about the inside of
the earth as well as about outer
space." The second story in the
book begins "During this past
month, the Girl Scouts had a party project. First they made pretty
aprons from large, strong paper
napkins and bright ribbons. Next,
they made delicious cookies."
This book will be in use until
All schools in Texas must display their textbooks for public
inspection at some time during
the school year. They are obliged
to post notices to this effect. Individual school districts may
choose from the three to five
texts in each subject adopted by
the state, which of these will be
used in their own district.
i j^rrm^ f * can
The Task Force on Sexism In
Education intends to be present
at the hearings again next year
and for as long as they feel it necessary. "When publishers have to
write a response to a bill, they
have to think about the objections
raised," says Butler. " "This raises
"While individual sexist pictures or statements may seem
harmless, their cumulative effect
delivers to students a distorted
message of male dominance. Since
wholesome human relationships
depend on mutual respect, both
girls and boys are harmed by textbooks that teach that one sex is
superior to the other."
^Illustrations from J. B. Lippincott'sTo Read, Write, and Listen, currently in use in all H.I.S.D. kindergartens. HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH SEPTEMBER 1977 PAGE 1