Proposed changes to Texas curriculum standards impede instructors’ ability to teach “accurate history,” some teachers have said.
The Texas State Board of Education will vote on changes to the state’s social studies curriculum standards later this week, The Texas Tribune reports. Some teachers say that these proposed changes, the result of a nearly yearlong effort to streamline the materials instructors must teach, cut back on important parts of history while leaving in other material they find unnecessary, even untrue.
For example, if passed, the new standards would require teachers to say that Texas got involved in the Civil War because of slavery, tariffs, states’ rights, and sectionalism—the first of which would be described as a “central” factor, while the latter three would be “contributing factors.” Ron Francis, a teacher with Highland Park Independent School District, said that such a lesson plan would “misrepresent the causes of the Civil War” and “minimize racial oppression in the U.S.”
Complicating all this is the huge presence of standardized tests as a priority above and beyond all else:
“I’m not supposed to teach reconstruction,” said Marcy Emerick, who teaches 11th grade U.S. History at Akins High School in Austin ISD. “But we spend a day on it.” This year, Emerick said she made a present-day connection to the institutionalized racism of the Civil War’s aftermath by showing a video of last May’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and discussing the removal of Confederate monuments.
But sometimes she can’t teach all the historical lessons she feels are necessary, because of the demands of preparing students for standardized tests. Reviewing the board’s current proposal for cutting back the standards, she looked at a line that struck the mention of immigrant contributions.
“Could I still teach that? Yes, I can. Can I still teach that and still squeeze in everything else?” she mused. “If the whole goal was to make this simpler, that didn’t happen.”
“The lies they’re telling are a little smaller than the lies they used to tell,” Francis told Tribune reporting fellow Kathryn Lundstrom. “I’m not interested in anybody’s political agenda,” Francis added. “I’m interested in teaching accurate history.”
This is of course merely the latest in a long-running drama over what actually makes it into Texan classrooms; previously, there was a huge outcry when a Texas education board workgroup had suggested dialing back the “heroism” language around the Alamo defenders in seventh-grade social studies curriculum standards.