A Texas state board will cast a critical vote on history textbook standards Friday, which could impact the entire country.
A record 206 people signed up to testify at the state board's public hearing Thursday. Passions on both sides were clear.
"My plea will be to change your vision from one of detailed micro-managing to one with a much longer focal length," Dr. Ronald Wetherington, with Southern Methodist University, said.
"As we look at our success and the kind of success that we have engendered over the years, it cannot be separated from our Judeo-Christian heritage," Rev. Stephen Broden said.
The board's dominant conservative bloc is proposing changes that chairman Gail Lowe says would bring balance. Lowe said that conservatives want to recognize the influence of faith and conservative movements in American history.
"I don't want a conservative stamp on it, but I think we've become a very secular, liberal society," Lowe said.
Thursday, the board considered more changes before a final vote, which will be held Friday.
One proposal by conservative Don McLeroy shows the direction the board is headed. It would require students to compare the original wording of the First Amendment with the modern-day application of the separation of church and state doctrine.
"Rather than describe that wall of separation that's there, I think students need to know that freedom of religion is based on no national church, and then, the free exercise of religion," Lowe said.
But leftists and even former Bush administration Education Secretary Rod Paige are raising red flags. They argue that board members are too driven by partisanship.
"We don't want history to be defined by one's political ideology. History should be as it is, whether it's positive or negative," Paige said.
What both sides can agree on is the impact of Friday's vote. Texas is one of the nation's biggest textbook buyers so publishers are inclined to tailor textbooks to their standards.
Even more indisputable is the impact of this debate on millions of school children.
"If one can grab hold and shape the curriculum of the schools, you can shape the next generation," Dr. James Kracht, with Texas A & M University, said.