Not all the debates over education on the state level involve funding or standardized testing. One that ended this week was over what subjects should be contained in the most-basic teaching tool — the textbook.
Among other things, the Texas Board of Education approved restoring Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller to the state’s history curriculum. In September, the board voted to cut lessons on former secretary of state, senator and 2016 presidential candidate Clinton, as well as Keller, an iconic activist who was deaf and blind.
What’s surprising was bipartisanship by members who have long waged ideological battles about how students in the nation’s second largest state learn history.
Certainly, Clinton has her supporters and detractors. But to even consider taking her out of classroom conversations in the first place was puzzling.
“I think she qualifies as a significant political leader,” said Marty Rowley, a Republican from Amarillo, while noting that he didn’t agree with Clinton’s politics, the Associated Press reported this week.
Maybe even more puzzling was that Keller was considered for exclusion.
In 1882, Keller was stricken by an illness that left her blind and deaf. Later, Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college and graduated in 1904. Later, she became a lecturer by sharing her experiences and working on behalf of others living with disabilities. Her autobiography was used as the basis for the award winning play and film “The Miracle Worker.”
During the hearings this week, Gabrielle Caldwell, a 17-year-old hearing- and visually-impaired student, spoke about how Keller was the only connection many people have to the deaf and blind community.
“I am hoping you keep Helen Keller being taught in our schools,” Caldwell said. “She’s a hero.”
Also restored was a previously trimmed second grade lesson about Women Airforce Service Pilots, civilians who flew during World War II and were the first U.S. women to pilot military aircraft.
There were other curriculum topics that went unchanged despite long-standing objections from university professors and other experts. For instance, the board refused to modify controversial instruction on how sectionalism and states’ rights were “contributing factors” to the Civil War, while also noting in the curriculum that slavery was a “central cause,” despite a petition signed by nearly 200 historians and scholars.
There were other topics that historians and scholars were asking the board to change. There has been debated in the past over those issues and will most likely be debate in the future.
Even considering removing Clinton and Keller, though, should have never been up for debate in the first place.
• Dave Mathews