Texas Curriculum Standards Revision an Exercise in Politicians Masquerading as Historiansby
State Board of Education Approves Misleading Standards, Earns Failing Grade, TFN President Says
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUSTIN – Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller warned that revised social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools, given final approval today by the State Board of Education, mislead students about key topics in American and world history.
“This was just an extended exercise in politicians masquerading as historians,” Miller said. “If the facts didn’t conform to their personal beliefs about the past, board members just ignored what teachers and historians were telling them. If this were a classroom, they would get a failing grade and certainly have failed millions of Texas kids across the state.”
Curriculum work groups made up of educators from across the state had worked for month on revisions to deeply controversial social studies curriculum standards adopted by the board in 2010. Even conservative reviewers have called the 2010 standards a “politicized distortion of history.” As in 2010, however, board members this year tossed out many recommendations from the curriculum teams and rejected appeals from historians and other scholars to correct numerous errors and distortions.
Even some of the improvements in the new standards were muddied by other distortions. For example, the board reversed the 2010 decision to relegate slavery virtually to a side issue in the Civil War, making clear this year that slavery was the central cause of the war. The new standards also remove Confederate Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson as a role model for “effective leadership in a constitutional republic.” But the board rejected efforts in September and this week to remove a requirement that students learn southern states fought to defend “states’ rights” in the Civil War. In an open letter to the board this week, more than 200 historians and other scholars said this inaccurate claim was part of the “Lost Cause” myth used for decades to glorify the Confederate past and reinforce white supremacist policies such as Jim Crow laws and the disenfranchisement of African Americans. (tfn.org/letter) A last-minute “compromise” adopted by the board today was not vetted by historians and still appeared to perpetuate the “states’ rights” myth.
The board also failed to correct the false portrayal that opposition to civil rights progress came exclusively from southern Democrats. In 2010, Republicans on the state board had sought to portray the GOP as the primary champion of civil rights progress against southern Democratic opposition. But a number of leading Republicans, including Sen. John Tower of Texas and 1964 GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, also opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Board members also approved standards that exaggerate religious influences on the American legal system and government, including a requirement that public schools teach that Moses from the Bible was a major influence on the American founding documents. They rejected efforts to correct a standard that suggests separation of church and state isn’t a key constitutional principle. Scholars and official curriculum work groups had recommended these and other related corrections. Two board members repeated an offer to pay $1,000 to anyone who could find the phrase “separation of church and state” in the Constitution.
The state board next year is scheduled to overhaul curriculum standards for health education in Texas public schools. Previous adoptions of health standards and textbooks have become heated battles over sex education.
The Texas Freedom Network is a grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, social justice and public education.