By Gail Lowe, Chair of Texas State Board of Education
“To say the State Board of Education has excluded Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum framework is irresponsible and untruthful.”
It did not take long for reverberations from the Texas State Board of Education’s preliminary vote on Social Studies requirements to spread across the country. And predictably, the media coverage was woefully inaccurate and blatantly distorted.
The New York Times probably was not the first to report on the board’s deliberations, but it joined a host of prominent Texas news outlets that incorrectly claimed Thomas Jefferson had been dropped from the curriculum framework used in Texas public schools.
Apart from Thomas Jefferson, the only historical figure with more emphasis in the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills standards is George Washington.
The State Board of Education expects students at the elementary-grade level, in middle school and again in high school to study these Founding Fathers and to be well-versed in their contributions to American history and government.
Thomas Jefferson is included along with John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Nathan Hale, the Sons of Liberty and George Washington as Founding Fathers and patriot heroes that Texas fifth-graders should study for their notable contributions during the Revolutionary period.
During Grade 8, in which the history of the United States from the early colonial period through Reconstruction is presented, the Social Studies TEKS framework requires students to explain the roles played by the following significant individuals:
- Abigail Adams
- John Adams
- Wentworth Cheswell
- Samuel Adams
- Mercy Otis Warren
- James Armistead
- Benjamin Franklin
- Bernardo de Galvez
- Crispus Attucks
- King George III
- Haym Salomon
- Patrick Henry
- Thomas Jefferson
- the Marquis de Lafayette
- Thomas Paine and
- George Washington
The U.S. Government course required for high school graduation mandates that students “identify the contributions of the political philosophies of the Founding Fathers, including:
- John Adams
- Alexander Hamilton
- Thomas Jefferson
- John Jay
- James Madison
- George Mason
- Roger Sherman and
- James Wilson on the development of the U.S. government.”
In addition, high school students must “identify significant individuals in the field of government and politics, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.”
To say the State Board of Education has excluded Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum framework is irresponsible and untruthful.
Jefferson not only penned the words of the Declaration of Independence, served as the third President of the United States and was father of the University of Virginia, but his promotion of the ideals of states’ rights and a limited federal government have permeated our nation for centuries. No study of American history would be complete without his inclusion.
That is why Thomas Jefferson warrants such strong emphasis in the TEKS standards the State Board of Education has approved.
A critical skill Texas students should develop as part of their education is the ability to analyze information from primary source documents.
This should be a requirement for journalists, too. Many seem to have jumped to erroneous conclusions without even examining the actual curriculum standards.
One can disagree ideologically with the State Board of Education, but the TEKS standards themselves should be the point of reference for objective, thorough reporting.
Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas) is chairman of the 15-member Texas State Board of Education.