Texas Curriculum Review Sparks Debate About Religion

Quinn said a similar dichotomy formed last year when the Texas Board of Education reviewed the science curriculum. A different group of conservatives was largely unsuccessful in getting creationism discussed in textbooks, he said.

While the board voted against including guidelines that teach about creationism, loopholes remain that give teachers some leeway when it comes to teaching about anti-evolution theories.

Expect a Drawn-Out Curriculum Battle

"What these people are trying to do is see if there is a broad base opposing their efforts [like there was during the science review], as they look at the social studies curriculum," Quinn said.

"We anticipate there will be a full-court press by conservatives and a long, drawn-out needless battle that distracts the Board from what they really should be doing, which is to ensure Texas kids get the education they need to have a good future."

Lybeth Hodges, a history professor at the Texas Woman's University in Houston and another member of the expert panel, said her recommendations vary significantly from those of her conservative counterparts.

"I go to church every Sunday and I still don't want religion being taught to my children in a classroom by someone else," Hodges said, "and that's what it seems to be they are suggesting."

Hodges says that she trusts the teachers who will review the recommendations to oppose teaching more religious-based material and does not expect the suggestions by Marshall, Barton and the third conservative on the panel, Daniel Dreisbach, a professor of justice, law and society at American University in Washington, D.C., to result in sweeping curriculum changes.

Dreisbach, who did not respond to messages left by ABCNews.com, suggested in his own review that the Bible should be included in U.S. government classes as one of the "influential sources."

But, despite the criticisms of the curriculum -- even Texas State Sen. Letitia van De Putte, who sits on the Senate's education committee, told the Dallas Morning News that she was growing tired of the board's "divisiveness" -- the committee's chair Gail Lowe hopes the curriculum will be changed to reflect the wishes of the all of the experts.

"I don't expect to pick recommendations from just a few of the experts," Lowe said. "I would expect something from all six is worthwhile."

Lowe, a conservative Republican who was appointed by Rep. Gov. Rick Perry, added that she thinks organizations like Quinn's Texas Freedom Network are trying to "nullify the influence of conservatives on the state Board of Education."

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religious studies at Boston University, said that it isn't just local Texans who should be aware of the debate about curriculum in the Lone Star State.

The sheer size of states like Texas and California, in terms of school children, means that changes in one of the states' curriculum could affect the rest of the country, Prothero said.

"The main textbook publishers have to be attentive to these states' standards because if they produce textbooks that don't meet the guidelines, they won't be issued," Prothero said. "So the states with the largest number of textbook buyers tend to have the most clout.

"So what you have here is a state that matters and is very conservative and very Christian and its voice gets to be heard."

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