Texas State Board of Education Approves Controversial Social Studies Curriculum Changes

Historians in the News

On Friday, the members of the Texas State Board of Education voted 9-5 on social studies curriculum standards for Texas Public Schools. Proposed revisions to textbooks will largely eliminate the civil rights movement from the curriculum.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous were among those who spoke before the board earlier in the week. Paige, who served as Education Secretary during President George W. Bush’s first term, implored the board members to take more time to consider the new standards, saying they will diminish the importance of civil rights and slavery....

More than 1,200 scholars from universities across the state wrote a letter condemning the board for falling short of “providing even a basic education to Texas school children.”

“Standards are supposed to be about equity, not about marginalizing certain groups by using political power,” said Dr. Julian V. Heilig, assistant professor of education policy and planning and affiliate faculty in the department of African and African American Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Standards, accountability and testing were created under the auspices of creating greater equity for students who have been historically underserved by the schools, the districts and the state,” he says. “As standards have become more and more politically defined the histories of those groups are being defined by other groups. When you disempower the history of the very groups that these standards were created to serve, the unintended consequences, I believe, is that these students are disempowered by those changes. It serves as a disincentive for these kids to stay in school.”...

Dr. Clayborne Carson, professor of history at Stanford University and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, says he is concerned by the lack of expert guidance the board considered.

“What’s disturbing is when you not only want coverage of a certain area, but you want a certain viewpoint of an area. You’re mandating an interpretation of American history,” Carson says. ”When you demand a certain interpretation of American history, then why bother to have historians write history books? Why don’t you have the Texas Board of Education write them? Because they can’t. They’re not qualified to write. It puts historians into a very difficult position of essentially having to lie. You’re not really telling what you think is the story. You’re telling what you’ve been told is the story.”...
Read entire article at Diverse Issues in Higher Education

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