Students returning to school in Texas might notice more drastic changes than just fresh pencils and crisp outfits: The Texas State Board of Education has implemented a new curriculum, including history lessons with a heavy right wing bias.
Of course, many adults realize that history is subjective and that any given event can be manipulated and rationalized differently depending on who is explaining it. But the new “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills” curriculum is exceptionally problematic in how it portrays American history — and, even worse, in the information it excludes.
Overall, the curriculum discourages a critical evaluation of United States history; rather, it glosses over trickier episodes and uses euphemisms like “Atlantic triangular trade” instead of “slave trade” and American “expansionism” instead of “imperialism.”
In an effort to further the notion of American exceptionalism and perfection, the curriculum eliminates mention of the U.S. government’s use of propaganda during World War I and does not encourage students to question Truman’s use of the atomic bomb to end World War II.
Craig Studer, a public school teacher in Austin, Texas, wrote about more changes to the curriculum:
Additionally, students will now “evaluate efforts by international organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.”
Perhaps you have heard something about a labor movement in the 20th century? No longer will your children. The only reference to a 20th-century labor movement will come when learning about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. No mention of the Fair Labor Standards Act or the National Labor Relations Act. No mention of strikes or any labor dispute. The words “labor movement” were taken out of the TEKS. Perhaps there is not enough time because students must now “understand how the free enterprise system drives technological innovation … such as cell phones, inexpensive personal computers and global positioning products.”
Students will learn about the contributions of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Maybe the students will read Falwell’s claim that feminists and homosexuals were partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the NRA are all included. Students will also be required to “discuss the meaning of ‘In God We Trust.'”
The curriculum attractraced considerable attention and controversy when it was proposed in the spring of 2010, but opponents seem to have stifled their dissent in the interim.
A New York Times article from March 2010, after conservatives on the Board of Education had made more than 100 amendments to the curriculum standards for history, sociology, and economics, reflects the motivations for the changes:
“We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”
The conservative members maintain that they are trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.
At that time, other members of the board accused the conservative majority of “rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.” Now their changes are taking effect, as the altered textbooks and curriculum will be implemented this academic year.
The changes to the curriculum will have effects outside Texas’ borders: The state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks, so their curriculum plays a significant role in how subjects are taught elsewhere.
Learning history is essential in creating an informed citizens, and teaching the not-so-positive aspects of American history creates a more realistic view of the country and makes people more alert in preventing such events from repeating. For this reason, curricula shouldn’t have an overt conservative bias or a liberal bias — they should focus on the facts and let students form their own opinions. Without a decent grasp of history, the future of the United States looks rather bleak.