By James Bernsen – Texas Republic News
Social Studies curriculum group had tossed out traditional American history to make room for left-leaning agenda
The Texas State Board of Education on Wednesday came down with a reprimand on its social studies curriculum working group after a draft proposal of the group’s new curriculum came to light showing a series of far-left changes that education bureaucrats wanted to install in place of the traditional Texas social studies curriculum.
The SBOE made it clear that such an extreme departure from the historic curriculum would not be accepted and that the state board would ensure better oversight of the volunteer curriculum board in the future.
When the board is charged with re-writing curriculum guidelines known as TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), it delegates the authority to a working group made up of volunteers. These are selected based on applications to the board and are generally supposed to include both educators and members of the public. When the board appointed the working group for revising social studies curriculum for Kindergarten through 12, however, it was overwhelmingly dominated by educators with few citizens.
“I was one of only two non-educators among 50 people in the room,” said Peter Morrison, a citizen from Lumberton who served on the board.
The working group, rather than starting with the existing TEKS and updating them, instead threw the entire existing curriculum aside, adopting instead some guidelines in line with those of the National Council for Social Studies and its affiliate, the Texas Council for Social Studies. Although these groups include much of traditional American values in their curriculum recommendations, they generally add in left-leaning and minority historical figures and concepts into the mix.
But the committees clearly went beyond just adding in a few minorities. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Brooke Terry obtained a list of the recommendations. Among them:
• In the section on holidays, customs, and celebrations, it removes Independence Day and Veterans’ Day.
• In the section on holidays, customs, and celebrations, it removes anthems and mottoes of Texas and the United States.
• In the list of character traits of good citizenship, it removes “a belief in justice and truth.”
• Removes the Liberty Bell from the list of patriotic symbols.
• Removes references to Daniel Boone, Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and Robinson Crusoe.
• Adds many new names including: Grace Hopper, Margaret Knight, Quanah Parker, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Maya Lin, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, Kadir Nelson, Jean Pinkey, Angela Shelf Medear, Elisabet Ney, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Bill Martin.
• Removes the suggested selection of a children’s biography of Stephen F. Austin.
• Removes John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and English common law.
• In the section on economics, changes the phrase “free enterprise system” to “capitalist system.”
• In the section on science, technology, and society, removes the reference to the private sector as helping improve consumer products and only mentions government-assisted research.
• In the section on science, technology, and society, replaces the phrase “analyze how policies fostering competition and entrepreneurship have resulted in scientific discoveries and technological innovations” with the “U.S. Constitution protects scientific discoveries and technological innovations.”
“Dead White Guys”
Far more troublesome for members of the board – and not just conservatives but moderates and liberals – was the tone of the working group’s meetings. Morrison testified that Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt were dismissed by the working group members as “dead white guys.”
“They did this with the implication that we not have too many of those types retained, and certainly not more added,” he said.
SBOE member Barbara Cargill took offense.
“I’m offended that some of the greatest historical figures of our time were referred to as ‘dead white guys,’” she said. Member Lawrence Allen, who is African-American, agreed that such comments were out of place.
“That type of behavior should not be tolerated in any form,” he admonished.
Member Ken Mercer added, “If there are any members who have a problem with that, I think there are a lot of volunteers we can replace them with.”
Representatives of the working group did not dispute the report on TEKS changes, but said that the curriculum change was just a draft and by no means represented their final decision. Cargill said that the working group’s actions were troubling, and that the starting point for new curriculum should be old curriculum.
SBOE members agreed that they shared some of the blame for not giving “structure” to the working group, and agreed to revise the current system. Currently, an expert panel weighs in on the final report of the working group. Most SBOE members expressed the opinion that the expert panel should be consulted earlier in the process to provide input.
“We’ll be watching the TEKS writing at every step of the way,” Cargill said.
Another concern was the lack of ordinary citizen participation. Cargill suggested that board members contact the Texas Association of School Boards to recruit citizens to provide the balance needed to full-time educators.