Most Texans want ‘content ratings’ on school library books and diverse classes, poll finds

A majority of Texans want “content ratings” — similar to those used for movies — on textbooks sold in public schools to help determine what’s appropriate for children, according to a new poll from the University of Houston.

The fight over library books began in late 2021 and continues to escalate. Traditionalists express anger at the idea that books with sexual themes are available in schools, while advocates of free speech fear that the limits of books may prevent children from accessing different topics.

Texans are generally open to rating advice.

A University of Houston survey – which surveyed 1,200 adults online in January – found 71% of respondents support requiring book publishers to set a content rating based on whether the title is suitable for young children or older students.

“Of course, the devil is always in the knowledge of who decides the content standards,” said Mark Jones, a Rice University professor who wrote the poll.

Already, Texas lawmakers want to crack down on school libraries.

Frisco Republican Rep. Jared Patterson has introduced legislation that he says is aimed at ridding school libraries of books and requires retailers to check titles that contain sex. The bill came from Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, would prohibit a publisher from selling a book to a public school unless it is age-appropriate for the content included.

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Such efforts to rate books were quickly derided by free speech advocates who are closely monitoring the Texas crackdown on books, especially those that focus on LGBTQ issues and among Black characters.

Books reviewed by Texas lawmaker and women, people of color, LGBTQ writers. They are asking: ‘Really?’

“A rating system like the one proposed in this bill would put unprecedented power in the hands of government officials to dictate the limits of what can be read, learned and shared by all students and families – in undemocratic ways,” PEN America officials said. , a nonprofit organization focused on free speech, wrote in a statement.

The university’s poll found that nine in 10 Republicans supported the idea, compared to half of Democrats.

The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

Support was strong – almost 80% – among Texans with a minor.

Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of Texans support legislation that would require every school district to offer ethnic studies — including Mexican American or African American studies — as academic requirements. Texas school districts are currently able to offer those courses as electives.

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The show of support comes after the State Board of Education delayed revising the social studies curriculum, and some ethnic studies courses, amid unrest.

North Texas course on Native American history, a culture that aims to combat stereotypes

Also in January, the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis closed a new African American Advanced Placement class to be taught in public high schools.

Requiring such courses is favored by 90% of Democrats, compared to nearly 4 in 10 Republicans. Black and Latino Texans offer strong support — 86% and 79%, respectively — compared to more than half of white respondents.

At the same time, Texans are divided over whether they support stripping the university of their sovereignty if they teach a strict racial ideology.

This idea – which was favored by 48% of respondents overall – is more popular among Republicans than Democrats.

What is the theory of hard race? Behind that idea is influencing Texas school decisions

Critical race theory – or CRT – is an educational system that examines the way laws and policies promote racism, such as education, housing or the criminal justice system. Conservative pundits often denounce it as divisive but associate it with diversity and integration efforts, anti-racism training and multicultural education.

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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made the completion of a new faculty position a priority for this legislative session. He also wants there to be a one-year review that the position can be revoked if there is a good reason.

“I will not stand by and let Marxist UT professors corrupt the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory,” he tweeted last year. “We’ve banned it in publicly funded K-12, and we’re going to ban it in publicly funded ones.”

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and discussion on education issues important to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a publicly funded media project, with support from Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deede Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions. Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.


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