Low-lights in Social Studies

by Ryan

As we reported Monday, a new report prepared for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board slams the State Board of Education (SBOE) for their politicized, factually challenged re-write of social studies curriculum standards last year. The report is worth a read to see just how extensive the damage was to those standards — and to Texas students’ college readiness. But if you don’t have a time to read the whole thing, here are a few of the highlights low-lights:

On listing “states’ rights” as the first cause of the Civil War (p. 23):

Historical Analysis: When Texans seceded from the Union they did not talk about states’ rights. What reasons did they give in their 1861 “Declaration of Causes”? Why would modern members of the State Board of Education cite a reason that historical Texans did not?

And the odd omission of religion in discussion of the Civil War, particularly since religion is so prominently featured elsewhere in the standards (p. 24):

Thinking about omissions: What role did religion play in debates over slavery and in the quest to understand the meaning of the Civil War?”

On the puzzling decision to identify only “Hiram Rhodes Revels” among freed slaves (p. 26):

Thinking about omissions: Why do the TEKS identify only one of the four million freed African Americans? Is it significant that Revels eventually supported white “redeemer” government in the South?”

On the thin coverage of Native American issues in the standards (p. 21):

Thinking about omissions: Native Americans have not been mentioned in the standards until now. Where have they been all along? What strategies did they employ to cope with removal? [NCHS.US.4.1B]”

On the SBOE’s decision to remove references to American “imperialism” throughout the standards (p. 29):

“TEKS controversy: The review committee characterized these actions as “imperialism” but the state board of education decided to use “expansionism.” Did the United States behave as an empire? [CCRS.I.A.6]”

On the efforts by the board to shoe-horn “Christian America” revisionism into the standards (p. 29):

Analyzing the Narrative: The story of a “Christian America” finds its most explicit expression in the public religiosity, laws, and social actions of this period—from the social gospel to statements by the courts to the president’s justification for the Spanish-American War. How does the treatment of natives, immigrants, and minorities fit within this narrative?”

And this (p. 28):

Thinking about omissions: How did religion influence the way that Protestant Americans thought about arriving Catholic and Jewish immigrants? [CCRS.I.A.4; NAEP.6.1; NCHS.US.6.2A]”

Correcting the problematic treatment of church-state separation in the standards (p. 18):

Comparison and context: How does the U.S. Constitution compare with the various state constitutions? When seen in this context, why might the founders have included the prohibition against a religious test for office (Article IV) and the religious establishment clause (Amendment 1)? [Govt.c.7.G; NCHS.US.3.2A]”

On the uncritical praise of the free enterprise system and big business(p. 27):

TEKS exemplar: Analyze the pros and cons of big business [11.c.3.B; CCRS.I.D.1]; Boom-and-bust business cycle of Texas industries [TX.b.7.B]

TEKS exemplar: Describe the costs and benefits of laissez-faire government [11.c.15.B; CCRS.I.D.1]

Thinking about omissions: How did corporations fit into this environment characterized by free enterprise and entrepreneurship? [CCRS.I.D.1.a]

Debating about history: Did the philanthropy of the industrialists justify the exploitation of labor? Should men like Carnegie and Dole be viewed as “captains of industry” or as “robber barons”? [NAEP.6.3; NCHS.US.6.1A]

When you step back and look at the big picture, as this new report does, it really is breathtaking to contemplate the dramatic revision of American history the SBOE perpetrated last year. And these standards will be in place for a generation of students.

Kudos to the authors of the report for providing some help to the poor history teachers who have to make sense of these standards.

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