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Texas Curriculum To Undergo Complete Revision for 1984

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This month the Texas Education Agency (tea) began revising the state's basic public-school curriculum, a project that will keep educators throughout the state busy for at least the next year.

House Bill 246, passed by the Texas Legislature last spring, is an amendment to the Texas Education Code that establishes 12 subject areas as requirements for a "well-balanced curriculum" for kindergarten-through-12th-grade programs in all local districts.

The areas are: English-language arts; other languages, "to the extent possible"; mathematics; science; health; physical education; fine arts; social studies; economics, "with emphasis on the free-enterprise system and its benefits"; business education; vocational education; and Texas and United States history.

The law only establishes the basic subject areas to be studied by Texas students; it leaves decisions of curriculum and content to the state board of education.

The board is also charged with seeing that local districts meet the requirements of the new curriculum. The law makes compliance by schools a condition for accreditation.

Over the next several months, the state board of education will be holding meetings in each of four regions across the state to develop the new basic curriculum. Public hearings on the proposals will also be held.

According to Thomas E. Anderson Jr., deputy state commissioner for planning, research, and curriculum, some 300 educators will be involved in the process. Local school boards will pay the expenses of educators attending the curriculum meetings.

The state board plans to begin introducing the new curriculum in the fall of 1983. Mr. Anderson said the transition will take several years.

"As far as we can tell," Mr. Anderson said, "this is the first time a state legislature has gone in and simply wiped everything off the books, set out a parameter of 12 subject areas, and let the education community take it from there."

Gordon Cawelti, executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development in Alexandria, Va., said it remains to be seen if the bill's effects will be as sweeping as its proponents hope.

"Politicians have grand plans that often don't come to much," he said. "But they can. The key word here is 'potential."'

The new law also repealed several sections of the education code that legislators had added over the years.

According to John E. Cole, president of the Texas Federation of Teachers (tft), "These were the kinds of things that people would stand up on the floor of the House or Senate and say, 'We ought to have a bill requiring respect for the flag 30 minutes out of a day."'

For example, one section of the code, now repealed, required kindness to animals: "In the primary grades of all public schools in this state, suitable instruction shall be given with regard to kindness to animals and the protection of birds in their nests and eggs."

Another required that "the daily program of every public school shall be set by the teacher, principal, or superintendent to include at least 10 minutes for the teaching of intelligent patriotism."

"I used to teach history," Mr. Cole said, "and I calculated that I would only teach history six weeks out of the year if I complied with all those laws. I would say those were some of the most widely violated laws in the world, though."

Mr. Cole and the tft endorsed the bill because "at the time it was passed, the feeling was that we ought to get the legislature out of the education business. And the feeling now is that we are trying a new experiment and that we're going to give these folks [the tea] a shot."

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