Crop of Opinion Pieces Take Up Texas Social Studies Debate

By Erik W. Robelen — March 17, 2010 2 min read
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It’s taken a few days to sink in, it seems, but I’m starting to see some opinion pieces appear in various newspapers and in the blogosphere about the controversial actions last week by the Texas state board of education to revamp its social studies standards.

As I wrote the other day, the debate has been infused with political, racial, and religious tensions. The board gave preliminary approval to the revised standards on a party line vote of 10-5 last Friday, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. The board may well make additional amendments before taking a final vote in May.

Without any further ado, here’s a quick sampling of opinions.

From a New York Times editorial:
“It was a disturbing intervention by the board’s Republican majority into educational decisions best left to the teachers and scholars who have toiled for almost a year to produce the new curriculum standards.”

Also, here are some letters to the editor in the Times.

From a Dallas Morning News editorial:
“Like liberals who use panels at colleges to drive home their point of view, the Texas right-wingers are pushing hard to teach ideas about religion, history, and economics. Obviously, we’re not opposed to students taking on those concepts. The problem is the right-wing faction [is] taking its views too far.”

Columnist William McKenzie from the Dallas Morning News:
“Wow. Members of Texas’ State Board of Education sure know how to attract headlines. Forget their brouhahas over evolution. Their long debate over social studies standards, which came to a head last week, has been its own doozy.”

Columnist Mark Davis, also from the Dallas Morning News:
“Well, maybe some books needed rewriting to wrestle them from previous biases. Everything truly is relative: If the textbooks are shifting right, is that a departure from accuracy or a move toward it?”

Although not from a newspaper, the Dallas Morning News opinion page linked to this piece, by Tony Beam, from the Web site, Christian Faith in America:
“For far too long conservatives have allowed themselves to be intimidated into silence as liberals waged a very successful battle to remove all conservative and traditional references out of textbooks used in the public school system. Finally and thankfully a group of principled conservatives in Texas have said, “Enough is enough.”

On the Daily Beast blog, education historian Diane Ravitch:
“Having a public agency decide which textbooks are right and what facts should be added or deleted is nonsensical. It is equivalent to having a public agency review movies and tell us which we will be allowed to see at taxpayer expense.”

This opinion piece from Kelly Shackelford, the president and CEO of the Liberty Institute, ran on the Fox News Web site:
"[Liberals] don’t like the concept of American exceptionalism, both by those who were born here and by the other great high-skilled men and women who are so attracted to the United States that they moved here from other countries. Thankfully, the conservatives on the [state board of education] once again held the line.”

Who’s right? You decide.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.