State Board of Education Tries to Rewrite History
A Sharpie to your textbook
The State Board of Education on Friday, Sept. 14, tentatively approved new standards for social studies students in public schools across the state. A 15-person committee of board-appointed teachers and historians drafted dozens of recommendations in an effort to streamline elementary, middle, and high school curriculums. They recommended the removal of references to Moses as an influence on "American founding documents" and the importance of the "Judeo-Christian legal tradition" to America's founding, but the board rejected both proposals.
The board did, however, agree to remove references to Hillary Clinton and Barry Goldwater in a section of the education standards that requires students to evaluate the impact of "significant political and social leaders." The committee also made the mistake of attempting to mess with the way Texas students would learn about the siege of the Alamo, an event in state history that has taken on mythic proportions.
The suggested change would have removed a line in the state standards that references a letter written by William B. Travis to the "People of Texas & All Americans in the World" during the siege's final days. (Committee members argued the line was redundant: Any lesson about the Alamo would necessitate time spent discussing Travis' letter.) But the committee also dared to remove a line referencing the "heroic defenders" of the Alamo – a suggestion that stalwart conservatives such as Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz could not abide. The two took to Twitter to implore that Texans call their BOE representatives and demand the lines remain in curriculum standards. The clamor from state leaders combined with public testimony Wednesday and Thursday – most of which revolved around the proposed Alamo changes – compelled the board to leave the lines in.
But in a victory for future students, the board approved language that would emphasize the "expansion of the slave trade" as a central cause of the Civil War. Although Democrats on the board wanted to remove reference to other "contributing factors" such as "states' rights" and "sectionalism," the board's Republicans prevailed and all three will remain listed. In another curriculum-related vote, the SBOE gave final approval to the controversial Mexican-American Studies course. It will be available to students as an elective in the 2019 school year.