Texans Must Study ‘Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits’

By Erik W. Robelen — May 25, 2010 1 min read
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A chief criticism of recent actions by the Texas board of education to revise the state’s social studies standards is that conservatives are injecting political bias into classrooms. (For their part, the conservatives say they’re correcting a previous liberal bias.)

I’ll leave it to others to draw their own conclusions. That said, I can’t help but point out something that caught my eye while perusing the standards. It’s the title of the high school economics section, the only portion that won bipartisan approval last week. In fact, it was unanimously passed 14-0 (one Republican was absent).

The title? “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits.” (Italics added by me.)

Sure, most Americans probably believe the free enterprise system works pretty well. But the language begs the question of whether Texas students will also be asked to at least ponder any of its possible shortcomings. Certainly, the tough economic news over the past couple of years suggests the U.S. system isn’t perfect.

It turns out that the title is not a product of this board. The revised Texas standards simply keep the name adopted by the state board in 1997. And, in fact, the name apparently wasn’t the idea of the state board back then, either. The language was taken straight out of a provision crafted by the state legislature, in the Texas Education Code, section 28.002.

The section provides a list of subjects Texas school districts must offer as part of the curriculum: English language arts, science, math, etc. For social studies, it says this should “consist of Texas, United States, and world history, government and geography.” Pretty straightforward so far.

Further down, it calls for education in “health, with emphasis on proper nutrition and exercise.” Seems like a pretty innocuous clarification. Next, physical education, fine arts, and then, yes, “economics with emphasis on the free enterprise system and its benefits.”

I’m ready for the criticism to come rolling in. “What are you, some kind of socialist? Or worse yet, a communist?” Nope. But the wording in the Texas code, and in the title of the standards, seems a bit loaded, suggesting students don’t really need to bring an open mind to examining our nation’s economic system.

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