History Curriculum Texas

Gabrielle Caldwell, who is partially deaf and blind, looks over her notes where she testified before the Texas School Board during public testimony as they prepares to vote on history curriculum in Austin on Tuesday. The Republican-controlled board is hearing from activists and academics who are defending or decrying proposed edits meant to streamline academic standards for history.

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

Dave Mathews: 409-683-5258; dave.mathews@galvnews.com

Managing Editor — Design

(17) comments

Carlos Ponce

Have you seen the Texas history curriculum? It has too much in it but the debate on what to whittle out of it to something manageable is always controversial.
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter113/index.html
Under US History since 1877 they are supposed to study Founding Fathers Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Peter Muhlenberg, Charles Carroll, and Jonathan Trumbull Sr. 1898 (Spanish-American War), 1914-1918 (World War I), 1929 (the Great Depression begins), 1939-1945 (World War II), 1957 (Sputnik launch ignites U.S.-Soviet space race), 1968-1969 (Martin Luther King Jr. assassination and U.S. lands on the moon), 1991 (Cold War ends), 2001 (terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and the Pentagon), and 2008 (election of first black president, Barack Obama). Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. DuBois on American society. Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, Henry Ford, Glenn Curtiss, Marcus Garvey, and Charles A. Lindbergh. Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Chester A. Nimitz, George Marshall, and George Patton; and Battle of Midway, the U.S. military advancement through the Pacific Islands, the Bataan Death March, the invasion of Normandy, fighting the war on multiple fronts, and the liberation of concentration camps. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Hector P. Garcia, and Betty Friedan;
And that's just a small fraction of what is supposed to be covered. See Chapter 113. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies Subchapter C. High School:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter113/ch113c.html
Are there enough days in the school year to adequately cover all that is in that curriculum? If not, what would you leave out?

Robert Braeking

Carlos, High School courses are 'survey' courses. Not really intended for PhD level depth. There is plenty of time in one school year (2 semesters) to cover all that you mentioned if the students are first prepared to study properly. That includes the ability to read English and comprehend what is being read.

Carlos Ponce

What I mention is not all that is there. Did you examine all that must be covered in two semesters?

Robert Braeking

Carlos, Not a problem. If it could be covered in the 60's it can be covered now. Study habits, reading comprehension, etc. are big factors.

Diane Turski

Partisan politics has no place in curriculum and textbook decisions! We need more common sense board members!

George Croix

Of COURSE Hillary Clinton is a significant politician. Absolutely.
'Leader' is a bit much, but there's no denying her contributions to political debate.
I'd say she should be featured not only in classes on government, but also mentioned for her participation in the transportation industries.
In keeping with her own Party tossing her under a buss in 2008, then her greatest personally claimed Sec. of State accomplishment being frequent flier miles, then not taking the road trip Scooby Van to Wisconsin 2016, and now being railroaded by the Left's 'Never Hillary' faction.......
[whistling]

Dan Freeman

Carlos Ponce, thank you for the reference. I scanned through it and was struck by how little emphasis there is on the history of the Colonial and early years of the Republic. I wonder how many students can name the first 18 Presidents. Of the Founders, how did they come to select Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Peter Muhlenberg, Charles Carroll, and Jonathan Trumbull Sr.? What about Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Samuel Chase, Henry Knox, and John Marshall, to name a few evident omissions?

US History did not begin with the end of Reconstruction, 1877.

Carlos Ponce

Pre-Reconstruction US History is covered in Junior High (8th Grade) History, not High School.
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter113/ch113b.html
I only used the High School (1877 +) History as an example of all that must be covered.

Dan Freeman

Thanks for the reference.

Victor Krc


When I last took American history in school the cutoff for the first semester was 1865, just after the Civil War. Now it looks like it is 1877 from what I have been reading here. So only eleven years. I guess I am not as old as I thought.[unsure]

Carlos Ponce

A lot of things have happened since we were in school. I am reminded of that old story about a dad telling his son he aced history when he was in school. "But dad, there was not as much in history when you were in school."[beam]

Victor Krc

When I was a kid I really loved my pet velociraptor, Snarky. Nobody messed with my cave when he was around. Also, he found his own food, so no problems there. Really low maintenance.

Victor Krc

Snarky had a real bad habit of chasing brontosauri and was accidentally run over by a brontosaurus while he was chasing it. The brontosaurus was devastated and I cried.[sad]

Tom Brown

The State Education Board has kept our heroic defenders of the Alamo, Moses and our Judeo-Christian heritiage in our history books. A big thank you to Texas Values.

Brian Tamney

Well Robert judging by the reading comprehension exhibited in some of these comments, there is not much hope, you say it could be done in the 60s failing to take into account that we have now added 60 more years of history. Meanwhile Dan questions about the founding fathers. When the curriculum cited states history since 1877, the early stuf I assume is still covered in american history up to 1876 as it was years ago when I was in school.

Rusty Schroeder

Run on sentence Brian, with bad punctuation. Correct grammar is a must when pointing out reading comprehension. :)

Victor Krc

Twelve years [crying]

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