Texas Debates Way History Will Be Taught

Filed under: In The News

Robert F. Kennedy lends moral support to striking grape pickers and their leader Cesar Chavez. Credit: Michael Rougier, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Conservatives say too much attention is paid to American imperialism and not enough to Christianity. Liberals want to know why there is no mention of farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.

This is Texas. Everyone has an opinion. Rarely a shy one.

The Texas State Board of Education is scheduled to vote this week on a new statewide social studies curriculum. What students will -- and will not -- learn about history has gotten a lot of people talking.

The 15 board members got an earful during public testimony last week.

Attempts were made to calm people on both sides. Board Chairman Gail Lowe insisted that Chavez and Christmas will not be removed from the curriculum, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports

However, according to the paper, people showed up with plenty of other axes to grind.
The paper reports that Austin, Texas, parent George Scaggs was among several speakers who questioned what they perceive to be a liberal bent in the curriculum.

"I'm concerned [with] the effort there is to attach some negative connotation to America's presence on the world stage," the paper quotes Scaggs. "While such motions would make good political theater in some corners, they have no place in our children's education. If our children are taught a jaundiced view of America then we cannot expect them to be vigilant in preserving our nation as a beacon of freedom."

State Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, noted that while Texas is a racially diverse state, the history curriculum has a noticeably creamy complexion.

The Star-Telegram reports she suggests making a study of Chavez a requirement in the fifth grade. So far, no Hispanic figures would be studied under the current curriculum.

"Mexican-Americans are not a historical,"Chavez says. "We are quite the opposite. We are rich in culture, history, tradition, music, the arts and language. We may not have landed on Plymouth Rock, but our contributions to the Southwest cannot be marginalized or discredited."

A final decision on the curriculum is scheduled to be made in March.

Speakers at this week's hearing included representatives from such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, Sons of the American Revolution and the American Federation of Teachers.

Religion has been a point of contention during the board's deliberations, with members taking flak from all directions.

The Star-Telegram reports that Sue Tilis of the National Council of Jewish Women in Dallas and others urged the board to keep the draft of the curriculum intact. She told board members it reflects religion's role in history and culture without promoting a particular faith.

"Faith and religious freedom have played important roles in American history, and our Constitution protects the right of all Americans to practice their faith as they see fit, but it's wrong when politicians try to use our public schools to promote their personal religious beliefs over those of everybody else," Tilis says in the paper.

Related: Religion in America in Decline

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