The Eyes of America Are on Texas
In May, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will hold a final vote on a new social studies curriculum to be used for the next seven to 10 years by Texas' 4.7 million K12 students. Because its textbooks are standardized at the state level rather than by individual school districts, Texas has the second-largest market in the nation, and publishers scramble to get their books chosen. The high cost of creating different editions for other states prevents publishers from forming alternate editions; thus, Texas' standards are often replicated for use in other states. The SBOE could, therefore, be deciding what historical names and dates teachers across the country will be focusing on starting in three years. But that would also depend on if the other states don't adopt upcoming common core standards.
Over the past year, a panel of history experts, teachers and politicians appointed by the SBOE developed the curriculum standards that were brought before the board in January. The 10 Republican and five Democratic members of the board then reviewed the material and proposed both additions and removals. Some of these changes are as radical as wanting "students to know George Washington was saved by a divine miracle," says Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network.
At a public hearing in January, over 130 members of the Texas community voiced their concerns and proposed alterations of content. Groups such as the Texas Freedom Network and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State advocated for balanced standards free of religious bias.
"The eyes of Texas are on this process, and the eyes of America are on Texas," says Lawrence Allen, SBOE member and representative of the Houston Independent School District, the largest district in Texas and seventh-largest in the country.
The Texas Freedom Network is concerned that the changes being made are not being adequately thought out. "Over the course of less than two days, the School Board of Education made changes that experts have been creating for years—and did it without any further input from experts," says Quinn.
The number of amendments being proposed has many left-wing Texans concerned that a conservative agenda is being pushed. Republican board member Pat Hardy criticized some other members for their proposed amendments, saying, "Guys, you're rewriting history now!"
A final vote approving the curriculum will take place in May. The publishers will use the approved social studies curriculum to write the textbooks, which will be submitted in 2012 to the state. The books would appear in classrooms in 2013.