New Texas Textbooks Standards

Article excerpt

It has been nearly a year since the Texas Board of Education first approved revisions to its social studies curriculum that would put a conservative twist on history through revised textbooks and teaching standards.

The revisions include exploring any positive aspects of American slavery, lifting the stature of Jefferson F. Davis to that of Abraham Lincoln and challenging whether the Founding Fathers truly believed in the separation of church and state. Among other controversial amendments that have been approved is the study of the ''unintended consequences" of affirmative action.

The board approved more than 100 amendments affecting social studies, economics and history classes.

The influence of the amended textbooks will likely reach far beyond Texas. The state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks, and many other states adopt Texas' books and standards.

While the new curriculum will not be enforced until next school year, the controversy over the board's politically motivated move has garnered national attention. It has stirred rancorous debate that has exposed the simmering tensions and resentments that have often been drawn along political and racial lines, not just in Texas but also across the nation.

The changes were pushed through by a majority bloc of conservative Republicans on the board, who have said that the changes were made to add balance to what they believe was a left-leaning and already skewed reflection of American history.

"There is some method to the madness besides vindicating White privilege and making White students feel as though they are superior and privileged and that that it is the natural order of things," said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas State NAACP. "The agenda being pushed and the ultimate impact intended is to make young people automatically identify with one political party."

Since the passing of the amendments, opponents, including the NAACP, the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens and the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education, have cited the negative impact the changes will have on minority children. They have enlisted professionals and activists to study the curriculum and have proposed alternatives.

The groups have said the new curriculum, approved by the board in a 10to-5 vote last May, minimizes the role of women and minorities in American history and promotes notions of Anglo superiority. The groups have sought a federal review of the state's public education and have raised claims that the Texas State Board of Education has violated federal civil rights laws. In a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education, the groups charge that the new curriculum was devised to "discriminate."

"It is going to be extremely psychologically harmful to African American young people because they are marginalized in the curriculum. It will require them to be taught things such as the benevolence of slavery and the problems with affirmative action rather than the good and the bad," Bledsoe said. "They voted down a motion that requires students to be taught about the terrorism brought about by the Ku Klux Klan and what they did to ethnic and racial minorities, but they turn around and pass a provision that requires the teaching of the violence of the Black Panther Party. …