HISTORY TEACHING STANDARDS TILT TO RIGHT FOR TEXAS HIGH SCHOOLERS
08:57 AM CST on Saturday, January 16, 2010
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Texas high school students will have to learn about leading conservative groups from the 1980s and 1990s – but not about liberal or minority-rights groups – under U.S. history standards tentatively adopted by a politically divided State Board of Education on Friday.
The Republican majority on the board also gave a thumbs down to requiring history teachers and textbooks to provide coverage on the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as well as leading Hispanic civil-rights groups such as LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Led by the board's social-conservative bloc, Republicans left Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the nation's first black justice, on the list of important figures that will have to be covered in history classes.
But they also added, on a 7-6 vote, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, the National Rifle Association, Moral Majority and the Heritage Foundation to the list of persons and groups that students will learn about.
Board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, offered the amendment requiring coverage of "key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s." McLeroy said he offered the proposal because the history standards were already "rife with leftist political periods and events – the populists, the progressives, the New Deal and the Great Society."
Those were among the long list of changes to proposed social studies standards for Texas schools that were considered over several hours Thursday and Friday.
Late Friday afternoon, after finding themselves unable to work through a long list of amendments, board members unanimously agreed to suspend debate on the standards until March, when they will take up other social studies subjects such as government and geography. In addition, several additional amendments to the U.S. history standards were left pending.
Curriculum standards adopted by the board will remain in place for the next decade, dictating what is taught in government, history and other social studies classes in all elementary and secondary schools. The standards also will be used to write textbooks and develop state tests for students.
Social conservatives lost some key battles Friday as other Republicans and Democrats joined to kill a few of their proposals. One of those turned back would have eliminated hip-hop music from history standards dealing with U.S. culture and replaced it with country music.
McLeroy and other social conservatives said hip-hop was inappropriate for history classes, and one member suggested it encourages anti-social behavior. Board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, however, retorted that hip-hop has "impacted our society whether we like it or not. So since it's there, we may as well talk about the positive aspects of it."
In the end, the proposal was killed on a 7-7 vote and hip-hop stayed in, along with rock 'n' roll, Tin Pan Alley, the Beat Generation and the Chicano Mural Movement as "significant examples" of cultural movements in the U.S.
McLeroy was successful with another of his noteworthy amendments: to include documents that supported Cold War-era Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his contention that the U.S. government was infiltrated with Communists in the 1950s.
The outcome of some of the proposed social studies standards for Texas schools that generated debate:
Labor leader César Chávez and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall: Experts appointed by socially conservative board members recommended that both names be stricken from the standards, but the board opted to leave them in.
Christmas: A curriculum-writing team dropped Christmas from a list of important religious holidays in a world cultures course, but the board ordered Christmas put back in.
Conservative groups: The board voted to require that U.S. history students learn about leading conservative individuals and groups from the 1980s and '90s, but not about liberal groups.
Religion in U.S. history: Social conservatives sought to require that students learn about "religious revivals" as among the major events leading up to the American Revolution. That was narrowly rejected.
McCarthyism: Social conservatives pushed through an amendment that will require a more positive portrayal of Joseph McCarthy and his accusations that the U.S. government in the 1950s was infiltrated by Communists. McCarthy's tactics have been discredited by most historians.