(Apologies for the atrocious grammar in the post title: It was deliberately done to make the point.)
It is a regrettable truism in textbook publishing that as Texas goes, so goes the nation. With so many schools needing books, the biggest states like Texas and California have a disproportionate influence on what is, and is not, available from textbook publishers. No publisher wants to come out with a book that school districts in mega-states won't buy, so they tend to tailor their materials to what they know they'll be able to market in the biggest markets they have available to them.
This should be a textbook illustration of why unfettered capitalism is not always a good thing. But of course, such an opinion would be highly unlikely to pass muster with the Texas Education Agency, which recently released a draft of its new standards (PDF link) for the teaching of U.S. history since the Reconstruction. The standards were revised with the advice of what the TEA terms expert reviewers, though I would argue that their definition of that term is considerably looser than most historians would probably be comfortable with. Of the six individuals listed, two are professors of history, two are tied to evangelical ministries and have absolutely no academic background in history whatsoever, one is a lawyer whose academic background is not clear, and one is a professor of education with no discernible training in history.
I don't recognize the name of either of the two historians on the panel, but that is not in and of itself significant, since I'm a Europeanist by trade. According to his bio page at Texas State University, Jesus Francisco de la Teja holds a Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of Texas at Austin. How this qualifies him to address U.S. history is not precisely clear to me. Lybeth Hodges' biography page at Texas Woman's University does not explicitly address either her academic background or her research interests, which is somewhat unusual in academic history. It does seem to me that both of the historians on the panel were chosen primarily for having done all of their academic work in Texas, rather than having the academic background to be able to address questions of American history.
Don't even get me started on having two evangelical Christians empaneled as "expert reviewers." Both David Barton and Peter Marshall appear to have an interest in history, but "having an interest" in a subject is not the same thing as having the necessary background and training to be able to evaluate how it is taught--not to mention the fact that the majority of both men's interest in history appears to involve removing from the teaching of history anything of which they personally disapprove (and they disapprove of quite a bit). If it were not such a serious issue, it would be hugely ironic to see, in Mr. Barton's review of the current standards (PDF link), his disgust that so few American high school graduates can, among other things, find Iraq on a map, name even one Cabinet-level agency in the federal government, or state the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. I agree with Mr. Barton that this lack of what I would consider elementary knowledge is appalling--but I would also argue that it is precisely the inclusion of people like Mr. Barton on review committees that explains why so few of our students come out of high school in possession of such elementary knowledge. They are too busy being force-fed blind patriotism and religious dogma in the guise of education to have the time needed to learn and remember things that are truly important.
It is also ironic to see that the draft standards include (p. 13) an expectation that students will be able to "use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation" (an expectation which Mr. Barton derided as belonging more to language arts than to social studies or history), when, in one of the comments (A47, on page 5), the reviewers or the staffer who put together their recommendations into final form described Chester Nimitz as the "navel [sic] commander in the Pacific theater." (I should also note that, while the note in question says that Nimitz was added to the list of significant military leaders in World War II, his name does not in fact appear on the list of such leaders that students are expected to know about.) And while I agree that Nimitz played a significant role in WWII as CinCPac (and would argue that he was far more significant a military leader than Douglas MacArthur was), I suspect that his being a Texan might also have an impact on why the TEA wants students to learn about him.
It is not too much to ask, I believe--and particularly in an era when we are trying to get back to the idea that before someone can be certified to teach a particular subject, s/he should have to have received some academic training in it--that anyone asked to review educational standards should have to have the relevant academic background to be able to address whatever standards s/he is being asked to evaluate. If we're talking about the standards for teaching history, then we should be asking historians. If we're talking about mathematics, then it should be mathematicians on the panel--and not megachurch ministers, even if they're very good at counting to large numbers. Parents would rightly be outraged to learn that their children were being taught by people who had no real training in the material they were trying to teach. Why should they be satisfied to have "experts" reviewing the curricular standards that their children's teachers will be forced to follow (and which will likely have a disproportionate impact on the kind of textbooks get published for the next five to ten years) who lack such training?