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The Texas textbook wars are underway: the State Board of Education spent hours yesterday clashing over its public school social studies standards, including how to teach students about religious freedom and separation of church and state.

Republicans rejected a Democrat-backed motion that the Bill of Rights curriculum include teaching students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from protecting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” Other partisan disputes– also ultimately decided by the 15-member board’s conservative majority — included how to teach about race relations and the contributions of minorities, the impact of taxes and regulations on America’s economy, and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

As the Dallas Morning News explains, in addition to the 4.7 million public school students in Texas impacted by the board’s decisions, these changes also influence the curriculum in thousands of schools in other states, because

Texas is one of the biggest textbook purchasers in the nation, which makes its standards a top priority for publishers.

Check out the (conservative) Liberty Institute and the (liberal) Texas Freedom Network for live blogging from the hearings.

After getting through all the proposed amendments, the board will make its final vote in May. The changes would go into effect starting in the 2011-2012 school year.

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