In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education voted to change history. Now, students, teachers and activists are trying to fix it.
The board held a hearing Tuesday and a first reading of proposed revisions to the social studies curriculum standard on Wednesday, but the night ended in the board making expected changes along party lines.
“It seems pretty clear that a majority of the board members are going to do what they want to do despite what scholars and teachers are telling them is true,” said Dan Quinn from the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan organization working to change the social studies standards.
After Wednesday’s debate, Quinn said he is not hopeful the final vote will fix the social studies standards.
Some of the problems with the 2010 standards include glorifying Confederate soldiers, demoting slavery to a side issue in the Civil War while emphasizing "states' rights" as a cause and encouraging students to think about the “negative consequences” of the civil rights movement.
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Ron Francis, a social studies teacher at Highland Park Middle School, spoke at the last public hearing on the issue on Tuesday. He said his class uses primary source documents and notices when they do not match the curriculum. Francis said teaching one historical event wrong could have catastrophic impact on how the rest of history is portrayed.
“If you don't teach the Civil War correctly, odds are you won't have Reconstruction in the correct context and then the civil rights movement doesn't make much sense because you haven't been teaching about that racial oppression,” Francis said.
This is the first time that the board has considered revisions since the curriculum was adopted in 2010. It will be the last time for another five years. The next time the board is scheduled for an overhaul of the social studies standards will be in 2023, but Francis said Texas students don’t have time to leave the school system misinformed about history.
“I just think Texas should be better than this,” Francis said. “There’s just no reason why we should be promoting a false narrative on U.S. history.”