Starting next fall, U.S. history won’t be the same in Texas.
On May 21, members of the Texas State Board of Education voted, 9 to 5, to pass a controversial social studies component of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum. The curriculum was designed to cover and teach the skills and knowledge that a child would need in order to succeed throughout and after school.
The vote came after much heated debate. Critics have said that the new curriculum would rewrite history in a way that downplays the contributions of Blacks and Latinos. History will be taught with a more conservative and Christian slant. One example is that in Texas schools, the “Atlantic slave trade” would be renamed the “Atlantic triangular trade.”
The new curriculum will be refelcted in Texas schoolbooks for the next 10 years.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke out against this, saying, “We do a disservice to children when we shield them from the truth, just because some people think it is painful or doesn’t fit with their particular views. Parents should be very wary of politicians designing curriculum.”
Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks, and other schools in the country often buy the same education materials. Publishers have tried to reassure other states that they can request custom-tailored textbooks. According to a market analyst, states can ask whether books “went to Texas.” California is most explicitly making sure its students are not exposed to Texan standards. A state senate committee passed a bill ensuring no California textbooks can have changes driven by Texas.
But the fact that other states can resist Texas’ education materials does not render the school board’s decision harmless. What does it say if “non-Texas textbook” becomes a stock phrase, a euphemism for a “real” textbook?
The climate of the country seems increasingly unfriendly to racial minorities. Just as Arizona’s new anti-immigration laws are not about immigration, legal or otherwise, so much as they are about fear and hostility towards Latinos, the Texas school board’s new curriculum has nothing to do with education and everything to do with pushing a conservative agenda and downplaying the contributions of minorities.
Hence, the real travesty of the Texas school board: regardless of the impact on other states, regardless of your opinion on their view of history, the ultimate flaw in the school board’s decision is that the changes were not fueled by an assessment of student performance. They did not review the needs of Texan schoolchildren and respond to that. Their revision of the curriculum is completely divorced from such educational responsibility. And the result of such disregard, such indifference, no matter what, is doomed to be harmful. ♦