The Texas Board of Education — known for a long line of controversies about what students should and shouldn’t learn in social studies — has taken a step to remove Hillary Clinton from the curriculum.
The Dallas Morning News reported that on Friday, the board, in a preliminary vote, agreed to remove a number of historical figures, with Clinton and Helen Keller among them, in a “streamlining” effort to update the social studies curriculum standards for grades K-12. A final vote will be in November.
The board took into consideration curriculum recommendations made by board-nominated panels of volunteers, adopting some and ignoring others. For example, it ignored a recommendation to remove a reference to the “heroism” of the defenders of the Alamo, according to a release from the Board of Education, which said:
Texas schoolchildren will still learn of the heroic "Victory or Death" letter penned by Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis while besieged in the Alamo, under streamlined social studies curriculum standards given approval Friday by the State Board of Education to solicit public feedback.
The board rejected a proposal by an advisory group that suggested deleting the specific reference to the famous letter and deleting the word “heroic” when describing the Alamo heroes.
Instead the board unanimously voted to include this revised language to the seventh-grade Texas history standards: “Explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, the siege of the Alamo, William B. Travis’s letter ‘To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,’ and the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there; the Constitutional Convention of 1836; Fannin’s surrender at Goliad; and the Battle of San Jacinto.”
It should be noted: According to multiple websites (History.com, a site hosted by Texas A&M University, among others), the author of the “Victory or Death” letter is Lt. Col. William Barret Travis, not William Barrett Travis. Guess the Board of Education didn’t do its homework.
Why did the board vote to toss Clinton — the first female presidential nominee of a major party, who won more votes than the Republican candidate, Donald Trump; a U.S. senator, a U.S. secretary of state; and a first lady — from the curriculum?
The Dallas Morning News reported this:
The Dallas Morning News spoke with two teachers from the group of board-nominated volunteers that made the recommendations. Both said the state required students to learn about so many historical figures that it resulted in rote memorization of dates and names instead of real learning.
The 15-member work group came up with a rubric for grading every historical figure to rank who is "essential" to learn and who isn't. The formula asked questions like, "Did the person trigger a watershed change"; "Was the person from an underrepresented group"; and "Will their impact stand the test of time?"
Out of 20 points, Keller scored a 7 and Clinton scored a 5. Eliminating Clinton from the requirements will save teachers 30 minutes of instructional time, the work group estimated, and eliminating Keller will save 40 minutes.
This isn’t the first time curriculum decision have been called into question in the Lone Star State.
In 2014, scholarly reviews of 43 proposed history, geography and government textbooks found numerous inaccuracies, biases and exaggeration, such as:
- the idea that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy;
- that in the era of segregation only “sometimes” were schools for black children “lower in quality”;
- that Jews view Jesus Christ as an important prophet.
In 2010, controversy erupted over a bid by conservatives on the State Board of Education to label the grotesque American slave trade by the innocuous term the “Atlantic triangular trade.” There were others, too: a proposal to remove Thomas Jefferson from the Enlightenment curriculum and replace him with John Calvin; requiring capitalism to be referred to only as the “free enterprise system” (mostly because the word “capitalism” apparently is negatively perceived), and language that softened the despicable legacy of the late senator Joseph McCarthy.
The State Board of Education also gave final approval to a new course called “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies,” the first ethnic studies course approved by the Texas board.
Curriculum controversies continue in Texas because hard-line conservatives have a continuing presence on the Board of Education, and they appoint people to the panels that recommend changes. In 2014, the nonprofit Texas Freedom Network (TFN) released a review of the panels selected by the Texas Board of Education to review proposed textbooks in that cycle of curriculum changes. It said in part:
Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics — including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin — who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.
The Texas Freedom Network analysis found that political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got spots on the panels.