Poor Reporting by News Media? Thomas Jefferson vs. Texas Social Studies Standards

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.”

gail-loweIt 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 jeffersonThomas 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.


  1. @Darren Camp. I agree with you almost entirely. My only intent with my statements was to let the readers of this know that we have a constitutional mandate in the State to provide free and public education. You and I both know that nothing is free (someone pays for it) and that increasingly parents are being forced to pay for things that they neither believe in or support. I agree with you that we need to do away with free and public education but we have to change the Constitution of the State to accomplish that. This will not be easy and sadly I do not believe anyone in public office has the guts to take this on. So, parents like you and I who choose (because of the dictates of conscience) to pay double for the education our children deserve are stuck.

    So, Mr. Camp, here is my question for you. What do we do about it? Do we sit here at our computers and simply discuss this back and forth or do we actually act on our shared belief and start making the case for it to those who can affect change?

  2. Gross, there is an irreconcilable conflict between forced taxation to fund government education and maintaining parental responsibility (by which I mean control) for the education of children. I know: I struggled for 20 years to pay to give my children the education my conscience dictated they have, while still being forced to pay for government education. My wife’s entire income went to pay for our children’s education while we still paid taxes to fund an educational system that was diametrically opposed to our beliefs. How is the constitution supporting my parental rights by fining me for choosing an education option apart from the government schools.

    Just because something is in the Texas Constitution doesn’t make it right or moral or unchangeable. At one time it provided for seperate schools based on race, and we were smart enough to change that.

    When this was written into the constitution, our culture was more monolithic in it’s culture, religion, ethics. Now there is more diversity of views among the population and a much much greater divide (not just diversity) between many parent’s beliefs and those in control of education (which is not the state of Texas, regardless of what SBOE may have accomplished, it was merely slightly reverse then long-term trend). People should be given the means to educate their children as they choose, not according to what some bureaucrat in Washington (or Austin) thinks. Stop trying to force people to think one way or another, and let people choose as their conscience and morals tell them.

    As I said, do away with government schools (change the constitution) and we can do away with the SBOE. I agree with helping other people pay for the education of their children, but I don’t believe I have a right to force anyone to do it.

  3. I am a public school government and economics teacher. I have been amazed at the irresponsible reporting from all sides on this issue. It was pretty clear from the first report I saw on Fox that people didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.
    Secondly, in reply to Darren’s comments we have this crazy thing called a state constitution which requires the State to provide for free and public education. I also invite you to look at http://www.constitution.org and read about some of the bias in the current Government text that is used in our public schools. My teacher’s edition informed me that the 2nd amendment was talking about the national guard. If you do not know any better then you can’t even offer both sides of the argument and that is the real problem. And always remember that you the parent are ultimately responsible for the education of your children.

  4. Thank You Gail. For those of you in SBOE 10 Get the Vote out for Brian Russell and continued common sense on the board. Runoff Date 4-13-10

  5. We certainly can tell who are followers of the Alinsky attack methods here, can’t we? Liberals and atheists are heated because their agenda didn’t grow in this year’s history textbooks. Look at the vileness of remarks made by Rivers above. Shows you what kind of people we are dealing with here. She’s probably a community-organizer from the Obama team. Praises to you State Board for having the courage amidst all the pressure from the media and radicals to keep history as accurate as possible.

  6. Thank goodness we have a SBOE that is elected. I may not always agree with everything they do, but I do have a vote just like each one of you. Don’t work to take my vote away. If you don’t like what they are doing get the facts and run against them. Our children are losing because forcing politically correct language in the classroom “dumbs” them down.

    Take the ignorance of the current electorate. Example: The term “separation of church and state” is nowhere to be found in the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Founding Father’s writings or letters, Federalists papers, anti-federalist papers or any other founding documents until more than 50 years after the Constitution was signed.

    Oh, but many of you keep believing the lame stream media and regurgitate everything they put out as if it were fact or had any confirmation. Open your simple-mindedness to facts in our wonderful history (yes, there are some bad decisions but remember they were human and not perfect; we should learn from those errors and have made many corrections that benefit our fellow Americans and the world) and do not berate those of us that appreciate the facts of our history.

  7. This is an wonderful example of why the SBOE is an excellent and equitable idea. If you are going to force me to pay for government schools, then you will give me the means to have some say over how that money is spent.
    Do away with the government schools, and we can do away with the SBOE.

  8. Ryan, I’m sure you were going to return to back up your claim that something in this article shows that Texas students will be “stupider”. We’ll hold our scoffing until then.

  9. @Helen Rivers, if you can’t address the issues, why not just shut the hell up? Otherwise, you’ve proven yourself to be the idiot. People are no longer fooled by ad hominem attacks from liberal philosophical/political charlatans.

  10. In cutting the size of government and budget, concerning education, let’s begin with TEA.
    The State Board of Ed. is made up of elected representatives. I prefer to choose members of the
    SBOE and have some influence on decisions such as text books rather than an agency that is
    appointed and mostly influenced by teachers union and the NEA and the U.S Dept. of Ed.

  11. Hooray for making Texan students even stupider! No wonder the rest of the country laughs at us…

  12. I don’t see any point in having this silly Board of Education. It is time to cut the size of government and cut our state budget by eliminating this group of elected bureaucrats.

  13. Ms. Lowe: to say that you are an idiot, not getting any, and therefore must spread you vile on innocent Texans, is responsible and truthful. The fabulous Bob Bullock, whom George W. Bush and so many of us Republicans loved dearly, said of Donna Ballard “she’s a good looking idiot.” In your case, you are just an idiot.

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