Register |  Lost Password?
eSchool News

Texas curriculum vote stirs conflict

Some opponents worry that conservative-backed changes to Texas's social studies curriculum will influence other states, but others say these concerns are overblown

The conservative slant that Texas curriculum may take could influence curriculum in other states.

Observers are conflicted as to what effect the conservative slant that Texas's curriculum might take will have in other states.

Some historians are decrying the proposed changes to Texas’s social studies curriculum for next year, saying many of the changes do not accurately reflect United States history.

But the potential injection of conservative ideals into the social studies, history, and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of Texas students for the next decade might not have as much of an effect on the rest of the country’s curriculum as some opponents fear.

“It’s a bit of an urban myth that the Texas curriculum automatically hops state borders. I think the media accounts have been exaggerated,” said Jay Diskey, executive director of the school division for the Association of American Publishers. “Nearly all states expect or require publishers to align to their state standards.”

If the curriculum passes as is when the final vote is cast in May, teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state.

The new curriculum standards also would describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than a “democratic” system, and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard. The standards also herald “American exceptionalism” and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best without excessive government intervention.

“We have been about conservatism versus liberalism,” said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. “We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it’s appropriate.”

Following three days of impassioned debate, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards with a 10-5 vote that followed party lines. But it’s unclear what effect the standards might have on textbook content nationwide.

Diskey said that since the early 1990s, publishers have released state-specific versions of textbooks, which was around the same time that standards-based reform became a national movement.

“Prior to standards-based reform, there were national-based editions,” he said. “At that time, it was true that larger states—New York, Texas, California—had an influence on books, but it was more about including more state history.”

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, said Texas traditionally has had a significant influence on national textbooks.

“Both Texas and California have a lot of influence on content,” she said. “But there’s a movement to put more textbook-type content online, because it’s easier to keep it up to date—and obviously it’s much cheaper. It’s also easier to meet state guidelines and even to integrate local content.”

While Barth believes there is still a large demand for traditional textbooks, as more states and districts begin to use online texts, the influence of large states like Texas and California will be increasingly limited, she said.

“I’m not sure where things are now, but I suspect there are still a lot of textbooks being sold because [schools] haven’t caught up to the use of the technology,” Barth said.

Diskey said he thinks the surge of digital publishing has erased the common national baseline that once was included in textbooks. At the end of the day, he said, states and districts look at the material and make the decision to use a textbook.

Texas State Representative Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, who sponsored a bill that provides for the adoption and use of open-source textbooks in the state, said digitally published textbooks could be a way for other states and districts to avoid the Texas curriculum.

“I think it works two ways. States that use open-source materials instead of just relying on a small group of textbook publishers will have more options if they want to avoid the Texas curriculum,” he said. “And, if the major publishers try to sell the Texas materials in other states, that may hasten states that haven’t yet gone electronic to look for alternatives in open-source materials and content from smaller electronic publishers.”

Diskey noted that there have been debates around school curriculum for years.

“It’s not a new thing. Textbooks have always been a place where our national culture and social wars are played out,” he said. “There were debates after the Civil War to determine how the Confederacy would be portrayed. … There were issues about how Vietnam was to be portrayed.”

But he said state boards of education are now more involved in handling the way issues such as evolution and global warming are covered in school.

Barth said history is always a tricky area when it comes to developing curriculum.

“Social studies is a hard subject area to write specific standards for. You have to make choices, and a lot of people feel very strongly about it,” she said.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

Links:

Texas State Board of Education social studies curriculum

Associaton of American Publishers

National School Boards Association

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Comments:

  1. drdouggreen

    March 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Dear Eschoolnews:
    Thanks for adding the term “open source textbooks” to my vocabulary. It sounds like physical textbooks, at least in some subjects, may soon take on a Wikipedia feel. While the tone of this article sounds left leaning, I think that it is safe to say that whatever a given teacher’s political views are is what is likely to be pushed in your child’s classroom, regardless of what the physical textbooks or state standards promote. I base this on a thirty-year career as a public school administrator. Since teachers as a group tend to be on the left side of the political argument, our children are more likely to get a dose of whatever the left is selling rather than an objective look at both sides of the political argument. Teachers on both sides will continue to spend more time telling kids what to think rather than teaching them how to think for themselves. That is unfortunate.
    Douglas W. Green.
    DrDougGreen.Com – dgreen@stny.rr.com

  2. drdouggreen

    March 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Dear Eschoolnews:
    Thanks for adding the term “open source textbooks” to my vocabulary. It sounds like physical textbooks, at least in some subjects, may soon take on a Wikipedia feel. While the tone of this article sounds left leaning, I think that it is safe to say that whatever a given teacher’s political views are is what is likely to be pushed in your child’s classroom, regardless of what the physical textbooks or state standards promote. I base this on a thirty-year career as a public school administrator. Since teachers as a group tend to be on the left side of the political argument, our children are more likely to get a dose of whatever the left is selling rather than an objective look at both sides of the political argument. Teachers on both sides will continue to spend more time telling kids what to think rather than teaching them how to think for themselves. That is unfortunate.
    Douglas W. Green.
    DrDougGreen.Com – dgreen@stny.rr.com

  3. twinkie1cat

    March 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Abandoning or deemphasizing textbooks would be one way to get around the textbook problem, but the bigger problem is the use of biased texts in schools period. The thrust of the standards must be to teach the students to evaluate the information and think. The texts should have NO editorial viewpoint. One problem is, however, that not all schools are technologically advanced, that computers are still more supplemental than integral to the curriculum. Texas is a huge influence and California normally would be, but California is broke and is postponing its updating of books. And Texas has many conservative states in its general vicinity that will also be influenced by its efforts to change America into a theocracy.

  4. twinkie1cat

    March 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Abandoning or deemphasizing textbooks would be one way to get around the textbook problem, but the bigger problem is the use of biased texts in schools period. The thrust of the standards must be to teach the students to evaluate the information and think. The texts should have NO editorial viewpoint. One problem is, however, that not all schools are technologically advanced, that computers are still more supplemental than integral to the curriculum. Texas is a huge influence and California normally would be, but California is broke and is postponing its updating of books. And Texas has many conservative states in its general vicinity that will also be influenced by its efforts to change America into a theocracy.

  5. sr

    March 22, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    TwinkieCat says: “The texts should have NO editorial viewpoint. ” The problem with your argument here is that you are making an editorial statement.

    “And Texas has many conservative states in its general vicinity that will also be influenced by its efforts to change America into a theocracy.” Another editorial statement

    So why should your editorial statements be the ones to which others adhere?

  6. sr

    March 22, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    TwinkieCat says: “The texts should have NO editorial viewpoint. ” The problem with your argument here is that you are making an editorial statement.

    “And Texas has many conservative states in its general vicinity that will also be influenced by its efforts to change America into a theocracy.” Another editorial statement

    So why should your editorial statements be the ones to which others adhere?

  7. kzielins

    March 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I think this is criminal and I disagree with Mr. Green! Students should be taught to think for themselves, not by either left or right! I am a school teacher and have been for over 30 years. We teachers, for the most part, try not to have our opinions or views influence how we teach.
    Leave it to Texas to allow such a thing! Let’s all have our children grow up to be Orals and Rushes. This world just can’t have enough nut cases!

  8. kzielins

    March 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I think this is criminal and I disagree with Mr. Green! Students should be taught to think for themselves, not by either left or right! I am a school teacher and have been for over 30 years. We teachers, for the most part, try not to have our opinions or views influence how we teach.
    Leave it to Texas to allow such a thing! Let’s all have our children grow up to be Orals and Rushes. This world just can’t have enough nut cases!

  9. dolton

    March 23, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Whether textbooks are seen as biased to the left or the right, they are increasingly anachronistic to learning in the 21st Century and should not need to consume such a large amount of school funding. I just blogged about this earlier in the week: http://doltonroad.com/blog — “Tyrannosaurus Text.” I welcome comments there as well.

  10. dolton

    March 23, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Whether textbooks are seen as biased to the left or the right, they are increasingly anachronistic to learning in the 21st Century and should not need to consume such a large amount of school funding. I just blogged about this earlier in the week: http://doltonroad.com/blog — “Tyrannosaurus Text.” I welcome comments there as well.

  11. sr

    March 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    kzielins says “Leave it to Texas to allow such a thing! Let’s all have our children grow up to be Orals and Rushes. This world just can’t have enough nut cases!”

    Interesting how you were so adamant about allowing students to think for themselves, but then vitriolic when the persons think differently than you…

    Shouldn’t people be able to think for themselves without an impartial school teacher calling them names?

  12. sr

    March 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    kzielins says “Leave it to Texas to allow such a thing! Let’s all have our children grow up to be Orals and Rushes. This world just can’t have enough nut cases!”

    Interesting how you were so adamant about allowing students to think for themselves, but then vitriolic when the persons think differently than you…

    Shouldn’t people be able to think for themselves without an impartial school teacher calling them names?

  13. mbay555

    March 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Dr. Green has some good things to say. Some of the comments seem to be saying “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” Perhaps if we concentrated our efforts on teaching the children how to learn rather than what to learn as a part of the basic knowledge package, they would be better able to make informed choices.
    Marion Bay

  14. mbay555

    March 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Dr. Green has some good things to say. Some of the comments seem to be saying “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” Perhaps if we concentrated our efforts on teaching the children how to learn rather than what to learn as a part of the basic knowledge package, they would be better able to make informed choices.
    Marion Bay

  15. supremebuddy

    March 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Seperation of church and state is vital to the success of a democratic republic. This is a myth that our Founding Fathers wanted a country based on Judeo-Christian values…just the opposite. They remembered how repressive the government of the Dutch were at the time forcing everyone into a state religion. For that matter many of the Founding Fathers were members of the Unitarian Church which has been known through-out the ages to be a bastian of liberal thought and not immersed in Judeo-Christian values. Why don’t we teach the true history of this country, not one that is “white-washed” and full of erroneous errors.

  16. supremebuddy

    March 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Seperation of church and state is vital to the success of a democratic republic. This is a myth that our Founding Fathers wanted a country based on Judeo-Christian values…just the opposite. They remembered how repressive the government of the Dutch were at the time forcing everyone into a state religion. For that matter many of the Founding Fathers were members of the Unitarian Church which has been known through-out the ages to be a bastian of liberal thought and not immersed in Judeo-Christian values. Why don’t we teach the true history of this country, not one that is “white-washed” and full of erroneous errors.