Social Studies

Texas Panelists Question Minority Heroes in Curriculum

July 09, 2009 1 min read

Advocates struggled for years to get greater coverage of influential minority figures in the school curriculum. Their efforts are evident in schools across the country, where most K-12 students learn about the contributions of Sacajawea, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks.

But some panel members convened by the Texas state school board think schools have gone too far in placing historical figures of color next to the Founding Fathers in the curriculum and textbooks. Some critics of the voluntary national U.S. history standards voiced similar complaints about that document more than a decade ago.

The Dallas Morning News reports on some of the panelist’s recommendations here, quoting one, evangelical minister Peter Marshall, as saying: “To have César Chávez listed next to Ben Franklin” – as in the current standards – “is ludicrous.” Marshall also questioned whether Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first African-American to be appointed to the Supreme Court after a legal career in which he successfully fought against school desegregation, was a strong enough figure to be featured in school textbooks.

The state board, the News reports, asked six “experts” to review the state’s current standards, adopted in 1998. Three of the panel members were appointed by conservative Republicans on the board, while the others were selected by the remaining board members, both Republicans and Democrats.

A committee of educators and community representatives are slated to write the state’s new social studies standards, which are influential in the development of school textbooks for much of the nation. The new document, which will guide instruction in the state over the next decade, will replace the ones adopted by the board in 1998.

The Texas board had been embroiled in controversy over its science standards, largely because of language relating to evolution.

(Photo of Thurgood Marshall courtesy of The National Archives.)

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

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