Last Friday the Texas Board of Education voted along party lines to approve a new school curriculum that will, in effect, rewrite history.
The new social studies curriculum will address what one board member referred to as a “skewed” history with a “liberal bias.” Although the proposed changes may individually seem relatively minor, they are not innocuous. For example, the proposed curriculum would remove Thomas Jefferson, known for his support for separation of church and state, from a list of influential thinkers, and to include religious figures like Thomas Acquinas and John Calvin. Cumulatively, the effects of the proposed alterations would amount to a significant change in the overall story presented to students.
Board members who voted for the revised curriculum claim they are correcting liberal bias, and perhaps there is some validity to their position. The real problem is that the decision about what to include in the required curriculum should be based on the consensus view of trained historians and educators, not on the personal, religious, and political views of individual board members.
Other changes include amendments that question the concept of separation of church and state, place more emphasis on adverse “unintended consequences” of civil rights efforts such as affirmative action and Title IX, and require the teaching of evidence both for and against evolution.
Historians have already begun to speak out against the proposals, referring to the amendments as “historically inaccurate.” Fritz Fischer, chairman of the National Council for History Education, hinted at the gravity of the situation in his statement that “[i]t’s not a political issue, it’s a good history issue.”
The fact that these amendments are being proposed by Texas raises further concern because Texas, as one of the largest textbook purchasers in the U.S., has the potential to set the standard for the textbooks used in schools across the country. Well aware of this fact, many textbook authors feel uncomfortable with the proposed changes and are concerned about the potential for widespread use of the altered textbooks.
If the Texas Board of Ed’s proposals are formally adopted, which they almost certainly will be, the changes will likely impact what information is – and, almost more importantly, is not – taught to young students across the country. Altering, curtailing and even completely deleting information that one finds unfavorable is a technique frequently utilized by policy makers and government alike. This technique is troublesome regardless of the context in which it is used, but the danger is even greater in the case at hand in which a small group of Texan administrators are dictating what our nation’s youth will be taught.
If you’d like to weigh in, send comments to the Texas Board of Education. According to the Texas Education Agency,
A document containing the extensive revisions will be posted on the … website and posted in the Texas register by mid-April. Once posted, the official 30-day public comment period will begin. At that time, comments with suggested changes to the document can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Board’s final vote will happen in May.