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The Brief: Oct. 8, 2015

Some members of the State Board of Education are suggesting that reaction was overblown to a caption in a social studies textbook that described Africans caught in the Atlantic slave trade as "workers."

State Board of Education members work their way through proposed revisions to social studies textbooks at a meeting with publishers in Austin on Monday, October 20, 2014.

The Big Conversation

Some members of the State Board of Education are suggesting that reaction was overblown to a caption in a social studies textbook that described Africans caught in the Atlantic slave trade as "workers."

McGraw-Hill, the book's publisher, has apologized, corrected the caption, offered stickers to cover up the caption on existing books and offered to exchange the old books for new, corrected ones, the Tribune's Kiah Collier reported.

One SBOE member, David Bradley, suggested the publisher's reaction was "a little bit overboard" and said the whole incident would “make for a great Jerry Seinfeld episode: something out of nothing.”

“I applaud the publisher for trying to make a fix and something should be done, but I don’t advocate replacing all the textbooks in the world. It’s not fatal,” he said. “Unfortunately, in our culture, everybody is too easily offended ... Something else I’ve learned is people are only offended if they choose to be offended.”

The publisher's actions were spurred by Roni Dean-Burren, a Pearland mother and doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, who posted a video of the textbook caption to Facebook. Her video post has since drawn nearly 1.9 million views.

Another SBOE member, Thomas Ratliff, suggested the caption was an isolated error and was not "an intentional act." Other mentions of slavery, according to Ratliff and a McGraw-Hill representative, more accurately depicted the harm caused by the slave trade.

“It's unfortunate that these passages haven't been part of the conversation; rather, all of the attention was focused on the one mistake,” Ratliff said. “We need to recognize this for what it is, not what some want to make it out to be.”

Trib Must Reads

Bid to Ease Cuba's Sanctions Turns to Texas, by Julián Aguilar – A Washington-based interest group is setting up shop in Texas to try and persuade lawmakers — and the people who usher them into office — to change their tone on U.S.-Cuba relations.

Analysis: A Change in Political Winds Every Two Years, by Ross Ramsey – Texas swings from conservative to very conservative every two years. The turnout is higher when there is a presidential race on the ballot, and the state's Republicans are a little less dominant those years.

Texas Lawmakers Worry Obama Will Veto Oil Export Ban, by Abby Livingston – The Obama administration announced late Wednesday that it "strongly opposes" a repeal of the crude oil export ban, legislation that many Texans are trying to push through Congress.

Texas Democrats: Little Opening for Biden Bid, by Patrick Svitek – With Vice President Joe Biden apparently closer than ever to a decision about running for president in 2016, some top Texas Democrats say he would have a hard time blunting Hillary Clinton's advantage in the state.

Education Board Members Dismiss Textbook Kerfuffle, by Kiah Collier – Some State Board of Education members are dismissing a backlash against a textbook that describes African slaves as immigrant “workers," with one Republican saying the ordeal would "make for a great Jerry Seinfeld episode: something out of nothing.”

Report: Energy Boom-Related Traffic Crashes Cost Billions, by Jim Malewitz – A Texas A&M University study reveals just how closely petroleum activity appears to be linked to collisions on crowded, crumbling roads in rural South and West Texas. 

Court: Flag Desecration Ban Violates Constitution, by Jordan Rudner – The state's highest criminal court ruled Wednesday that a Texas law banning defacement of the U.S.and state flags is unconstitutional.

Texans Rally U.S. House to Lift Crude Oil Export Ban, by Abby Livingston – A decades-long ban on crude oil exports is up for repeal, legislation that is expected to glide through the U.S. House at the end of the week. While there is little doubt that the House will pass the repeal, it still faces serious obstacles before becoming law.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to Review Perry Case, by Patrick Svitek – Texas' highest criminal court has agreed to review the abuse-of-power case against former Gov. Rick Perry. 

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Greg Abbott will speak at a 3:30 p.m. press conference at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center with Chancellor Robert Duncan and Health Sciences Center President Tedd Mitchell to announce a new Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program. 


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Police shortage looms in mayor's race,  Houston Chronicle

Patrick foresees brokered 2016 GOP conventionSan Antonio Express-News

Ted Cruz talks leadership with House conservatives ahead of speaker vote, The Dallas Morning News

Prosecutors call Paxton subpoenas 'improper' and 'desperate', Houston Chronicle

In Texas It's A Crime To Be Poor, BuzzFeed

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Republican Study Committee quizzes speaker candidates on how they’d change House, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

“I will remind all of them that Hitler made the trains run on time. The good that’s being done doesn’t compensate for the evil that’s being done by Planned Parenthood.”

— Ron Wright, a Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector, on his decision not to encourage employees to contribute money to United Way, which he says has ties to Planned Parenthood

Today in TribTalk

Texas' Juvenile Justice System Saved My Life, by Charleston White – When I was 14, I was convicted of murder. The sentence for this young Texas gang leader? Twelve years in lock-up. But this isn’t going to be one of those op-eds about a broken juvenile justice system. Texas’ system saved my life. 

Texas Democrats Want Biden as Failsafe, not Alternative, by Jim Henson and Joshua Blank – Texas Democrats are beckoning Joe Biden to become the vice president of the Democratic primary contest. Once again, they don’t want him in charge, but they want to keep him handy in case of an emergency.

News From Home

•    In the 2015 Texas legislative session, state lawmakers weren't shy about using their religious beliefs to defend their policymaking. Check out part 2 of our "God & Governing" documentary-style series — to see how lawmakers' personal religious beliefs played into the open carry and campus carry debates. 

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Political Commentator Paul Begala on Oct. 15 in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

•    The Texas Tribune Trivia Night on Oct. 18 in Austin

•    A Conversation with Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht on Oct. 29 in Austin

•    A daylong higher education symposium on Nov. 16 at Baylor University in Waco

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