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Is Texas Rewriting History?

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They say history is written by the victors. In this case, the victors are a panel of 15 elected officials in the state of Texas who will decide the textbook and curriculum content for schools across the country.

girl reading textbook

Ronda Kaysen: The Texas State Board of Education is reviewing history textbooks, and since the state buys so many books each year -- a whopping 48 million -- the elected board members can dictate the books' content. The board members are not scientists, historians or scholars, but the content they choose will determine how the books are written for texts sold in all 50 states.

Arguing that American textbooks have been hijacked by a liberal agenda, board members are trying to restore a conservative bent to the material taught in grades K-8. The current "standards are rife with leftist political periods and events: the Populists, the Progressives, the New Deal and the Great Society," board member Don McLeroy said in a statement. "Including material about the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s provides some political balance to the document."

In the proposed changes, Susan B. Anthony would be wiped from the history books, along with Florence Nightingale and Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman elected to Congress). In their place would be Abigail Adams and Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative politician who opposed feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment.

When students learn about the McCarthy hearings, they might now learn that Joseph McCarthy was eventually vindicated as details about spying emerged. A popular children's-book author, Bill Martin Jr., has been stricken from the curriculum because he shares the same name as a professor who wrote favorably about Karl Marx.

Even W.E.B. Du Bois, founder of the NAACP, may not make the cut. For the moment, the famous civil-rights activist's writings have been included in the reading curriculum -- but his ties to the Communist party and the fact that he ultimately moved to Ghana and denounced capitalism might undo him.

It is deeply disturbing that a group of elected officials who are not historians, scientists, sociologists -- or experts in any of these fields -- can determine the curriculum for the entire nation.

Julio Noboa, a history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and a social-studies expert who made recommendations for the board, told the San Antonio Express, "This goes to the fundamental issue. The board is not made up of educators, let alone historians. It really makes them look stupid."

This goes beyond a handful of ignorant people making decisions that affect all of our children. This is about a group of people deciding to erase elements of our collective history that don't fit with the neat picture they prefer.

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network (a watchdog organization), said it best when she told FOX News, "I believe the members of this board, this seven-member voting block, are willing to sacrifice the truth in history to promote a very skewed perspective, especially on the issue of civil rights. We watched while they tried to whitewash civil rights and remove references to ethnic and religious minorities and women and the struggles we faced in expanding our rights."

Board members see no problem with revising the history to reflect a "rosier" view of it that excludes women, minorities and oppression.

Houston State Senator Dan Patrick told FOX News, "I'm glad the SBOE is drawing a line in the sand, as we in Texas have been known to do from time to time, to say this is what our country was founded upon, these are our principles, these are our values and this is who we are as a people." 

A final vote is scheduled for May. And then we can all look forward to our kids coming home reciting a history written by 15 elected officials in Austin. 

What do you think? Should this be how school curricula is decided?

next: Not Ashamed to Share the Baby Name
87 comments so far | Post a comment now
Amber March 9, 2010, 12:02 PM

This is rediculous! How can 15 ignorant Texans change the curiculum for all? If they don’t want their children to learn what really happened then they can pull thir children out of school and home school them. You can’t change history!These are things our children need to learn!

Anonymous March 9, 2010, 1:02 PM

I am appalled that there are women on this board who are willing to omit the feminist movement! Without this movement, they wouldn’t be even serving on this board. This needs to be a national issue!

hey there March 9, 2010, 1:13 PM

When I taught in my state, we went by what our state dictated that we teach, our state Course of Study— which sometimes we supplemented w/ a textbook— we never taught by the textbook and I doubt most states do.

caroline March 9, 2010, 1:50 PM

This might be going too far, but I was quite disgusted also by how negative even elementary school textbooks are to US history, especially the founding fathers. It seems to be politically incorrect now a days to be proud of your country and it’s founders.

gatebeautiful21 March 9, 2010, 3:24 PM

Best news I have heard in years!!!! Way to go Texas!!

Kristin March 9, 2010, 4:50 PM

Leave it to Texas to do something dumb.

jthsing March 9, 2010, 5:17 PM

This is nothing new. This has been going on for decades. It’s never been “right,” even when those of us now commenting were going to school and being “taught” from text books.

b March 9, 2010, 6:08 PM

1) you’re assuming that the current textbooks are accurate in their account of history, and that changing them would somehow make them inaccurate. I tend to think the *truth* (and i happen to believe in absolute truths) is that they are all inaccurate in one way or another and this will only change their inaccuracies, not increase or decrease them. 2) If you think that the departments of education/school board members are all historians, scholars and the like, think again. I know that the Texas DOE is run by elected officals (and once upon a time-not sure it he’s still in office-it was run by a guy who used to be a dentist but thought education needed to be reformed, ran for the office and won). So, this kind of decision-making panel is nothing new. And 3) It hasn’t happened yet-it’s all a possibility, but so is nuclear war and China taking over the world if they ever decide to call in all their loans. But those haven’t happened either, so lets everyone get our panties out of a wad and spend time and energy on getting our kids to do their homework they have tonight and worry about this if/when it becomes a real issue.

deaddrift March 9, 2010, 6:12 PM

Yeah, those poor conservatives have such a hard time getting their arguments across in the public sphere! Seriously, though, this is a very big deal and textbook content really is dictated by the purchasing power of Texas (and California). As a wiser man than I once pointed out, some folks love their country like a young child loves its parents, preferring to believe that Mommy and Daddy are perfect and could never do anything wrong; while others love their country like responsible parents love their children, recognizing the good AND the bad, and confronting the child’s mistakes so that the errors won’t occur again in the future. I leave it to the reader to decide who is who, and whose approach is best.

Wayne Vaughan March 9, 2010, 7:29 PM

Mom Logic, what an oxymoron!

me bee March 10, 2010, 6:27 AM

When I taught in my state, we went by what our state dictated that we teach, our state Course of Study— which sometimes we supplemented w/ a textbook— we never taught by the textbook and I doubt most states do.


In reply to the above:

All states DO teach by the book, since all kids must pass state tests that only include what is in the books. Teachers are not allowed to just teach what they have learned and have knowledge on. Are you kidding me? It is against the rules now to teach outside of the mandated text books.

Jess March 10, 2010, 7:34 AM

“In reply to the above: All states DO teach by the book, since all kids must pass state tests that only include what is in the books. Teachers are not allowed to just teach what they have learned and have knowledge on. Are you kidding me? It is against the rules now to teach outside of the mandated text books.”

I have never received a textbook driven education. They have always be supplementary and most of the time, I didn’t even read them because the material supplied by the lectures was better. Even as a history major in college, I don’t use them. Rules are geared towards tests, not textbooks, and the state and national standards are luckily determined by others.

When I was in a high school biology class, my teacher got up and told us that she was required to note that the theory of evolution is “just a theory” and that there are “viable alternatives”…but then she told us that that was all bullsh*t and proceeded to teach evolution from a scientific perspective. If our history teachers are trained well enough, they should be able to supplement the limited intelligence of 15 Texans.

Anonymous March 11, 2010, 8:05 AM

In school, my education was definitely textbook based. As a current teacher it is mandatory to follow the textbook - otherwise we’d all just teach what we felt was most important and the student would receive a woefully unbalanced education! Of course, I didn’t grow up in a backward state, nor do I teach in one, so I’m sure that has something to do with it.

Shay Olivarria March 12, 2010, 11:23 AM

I’m so glad that you wrote this article. It’s up to all of us to be proactive in our children’s education.

Also, lets not forget that though classroom education is important, it’s up to each of us to supplement the education our children receive in school with books, films, and discussions that explain history, science, etc. with the perspective that we choose.

Families are the first teachers.

Shay Olivarria

lyndeegrrl March 15, 2010, 3:49 PM

how can you rewrite history? its not up for discussion. What happened, happened.

Must everything be politicized. Share the events and let kids form their own opinion. Please Texas don’t let other people decide what your children should know—you’re the parents!

Tom March 15, 2010, 6:08 PM

Who cares? When I was in school all I did was LEARN … TEST … FORGET (repeat as necessary). It’s not like they are going to retain everything they were taught for the rest of their lives. They want to get a good grade on a test. Goes in one ear and out the other after the final exams.

Anonymous March 24, 2010, 2:05 PM

You know its funny all the things they are looking at putting in are a part of history as well but instead of acknowledging these facts everyone is screaming “they’re taking things out” what you should be asking is, why wasn’t this information in the books in the first place? it seems odd that conservative or opposing views aren’t in there already. like it or not the history books are already schewed in favor of someone. liberals have been rewriting the educational system for years and none of you were calling fowl then were you? -ken

Terrie May 19, 2010, 3:17 AM

I’m a democrat living in Texas and believe me it isn’t easy. This doesn’t shock me at all. The republicans here are such immature bullies who would trample over anything ,including history, to get their way. Nothing they say ever rings true, so it doesn’t surprise me their willingness to rewrite history to support their agenda. The only way to handle a bully is to stand up to them.

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