Report to Higher Ed. Board: Politically Charged Curriculum Not Preparing Kids For College

Get ready for remedial history, college-bound Texans, because the statewide blueprint that dictates what you learn in high school isn't doing you any favors -- a longstanding tradition in public secondary education, according to a report prepared for the Texas Board of Higher Education.

A 1998 survey commissioned by the board found 40 percent of students needed remedial courses in college. The number was so ridiculously bad that the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills was formed, establishing college readiness standards.

It didn't help.

In 2006, the number hadn't budged. In 2010, 48 percent of community college students and 14 percent of university freshmen needed at least one remedial course. The state board of education set about revising TEKS in 2009, this time with the aim of incorporating the superior College and Career Readiness Standards devised under the supervision of the Board of Higher Ed. Well, you remember what happened next.

"Over the course of eight months, the lawyers and realtors and dentist on the board made hundreds of changes to the standard," says the report authored for the Board of Higher Ed. by Keith Erekson, a history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. "As the politicians squabbled over the politics of who should be in or out, they tacitly adopted a bipartisan agreement to ignore principles of sound pedagogy."

Earlier this year, the Fordham Institute gave the 2010 TEKS a failing grade for its "politicized distortion of history," which offered "misrepresentations at every turn."

Where the Higher Ed. Board's CCRS asks students to evaluate, for example, the strengths and weakness of different economic systems, TEKS asks only for the their foregone and glowing appraisal of the one, true gospel -- American-style capitalism. "Describe the characteristics and the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system."

In another example of one-sided analysis, students are asked to analyze the "unintended consequences" of liberal-socialist experiments like the Great Society, Affirmative Action and Title IX, also known as the Civil Rights Act.

"No Texas parent would desire this for her child and no profit-minded Texas business leader would hire a graduate who had attained only these abysmal standards," Erekson scolds.

But he does have a few suggestions. To wit:

When thinking about the European incursion into the Americas, he notes that it might be informative to mention the plagues they brought with them.

And when thinking about Texas's role in the Civil War, a freshman might be edified by learning that "states' rights" was not in its Declaration of Causes. "Why would modern members of the State Board of Education cite reasons historical Texans did not?" Erekson asks.

He has a bunch of other constructive suggestions for improving TEKS. Click the link if you're interested

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