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The Texas State Board of Education (TSBE) is casting votes Tuesday to determine whether the state’s social studies curriculum will remove dozens of major historical figures – including failed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the deaf-blind disability rights advocate, Hellen Keller.
Public testimony will be given before the TSBE regarding the proposed changes that would affect all grades of social studies instruction in public schools across the Lone Star State.
Earlier this year, the Republican-majority school board appointed a group of education professionals to submit their proposed changes to the requirements for K–12 social studies classes in public schools, according to a report from The Austin American-Statesman.
Besides the former first lady and the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree, Texan school officials will decide whether former Republican presidential candidate – and first Jewish nominee – will be eliminated from the curriculum, as well.
One historical group that could also be eradicated from the curriculum is the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) – who were the first women in America to ever fly aircraft for the United States Armed Forces – and many of the proposed deletions have been controversial.
“The changes have come under fire since they were preliminarily approved in September,” The Dallas News recounted.
Other historical figures up for debate this summer in the curriculum included champions of the Christian faith – which the conservative board considered keepers to keep them off Tuesday’s list of prospective removals.
“The board approved the recommendations in September, but opted to keep the late televangelist Billy Graham and Moses in the curriculum,” Fox News reported.
Wait a minute ...
But fans of Clinton and Keller were not happy over their American heroes remaining on the chopping block, while some dissenters were upset that changes were not limited to issues concerning discrimination against blacks – and their treatment – 100 to 150 years ago.
“Liberal activists and disability rights proponents have decried the proposed reductions as partisan,” Fox News’ Bradford Betz noted. “Other critics have criticized the proposed recommendations to include causes other than slavery for the Civil War.”
Nearly 200 educators signed a document protesting elements of the current state curricula. They claim that the instruction condones or advocates racism against blacks through allegedly biased historical accounts of their treatment by Anglo Americans more than a hundred years ago in the U.S.
“[The new recommendations will validate] a long-discredited version of history first promoted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to glorify the Confederate past and reinforce white supremacist policies such as disenfranchisement of African-Americans and Jim Crow segregation,” the open letter contends.
Indicating that there is no political motivation behind the proposed changes, TSBE Chairwoman Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) stressed that more class time will be opened up for teachers if the reductions are implemented in the social studies curricula for elementary, middle and high school students.
It was also emphasized that such extractions from social studies classes will make it easier for teachers to form a coherent historical narrative that continues throughout the semester.
“The board has proposed cutting several historical figures and groups in order to ‘streamline’ the curriculum and provide more flexibility to teachers,” The Dallas News Texas Government Reporter Lauren McGaughy pointed out.
More reasoning behind proposed changes
Besides streamlining the instruction and learning process in social studies classes, it was argued by the board that the historical figures considered to be deleted are not vital in understanding the underpinnings of American society – yet the option for teachers still remains that they can add them to their mandatory coursework.
“The state currently recommends teachers educate students about Keller, Clinton and the WASP in different grades as examples of good citizenship, but they may be axed because they're considered ‘non-essential,’" McGaughy explained. “Many of the figured who may be axed are recommended – not required – to be taught; if cut, teachers would not be prohibited from discussing them.”
Certain events, celebrations and concepts could also be cut from Texas students’ curriculum.
“The board will also hear and vote on several other changes – including replacing San Jacinto Day with Constitution Day in Grade 1 classes, remov[ing] a lesson on the Poteet Strawberry Festival from Grade 4 and axing the phrase ‘describe the optimism of the many immigrants who sought a better life in America’ in a section on immigration taught in high school U.S. history,” McGaughy added.
By the end of the week, the social studies curriculum for the state of Texas will be cemented down for next schoolyear.
“After Tuesday, the board will have a final vote on Friday,” Betz noted. “If passed, the curriculum will go into effect in the 2019–2020 school year.”
According to Fox News, an earlier political debate over Texas’ history curriculum was brought to the table by a Texas panel, which advised that the historical rendering of the Alamo in school lessons should not include a “heroic” description.
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