A group of university educators has called on the Texas State Board of Education to delay a final vote on contentious new social studies curriculum standards until experts from higher education can weigh in on the matter.
In an open letter made public April 15, the educators called on the board to delay its planned May vote until curriculum teams and a panel of qualified, credentialed content experts from the state’s colleges and universities can review changes the board made and “prepare a new draft of the standards that is fair, accurate, and balanced,” the letter says.
“The integrity of the curriculum revision process has been compromised,” the educators wrote.
Last month, the board gave preliminary approval to new standards for grades K-12 after three days of public hearings and contentious debate. A far-right faction of the board succeeded in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history, and economics lessons, critics charge.
The proposed curriculum standards would require teachers 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 standards also herald “American exceptionalism” and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best without excessive government intervention.
Many critics, including several Hispanic lawmakers and academic experts, have said the new curriculum minimizes the contributions of minorities.
On April 15, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas chimed in, saying it presents a troubling and biased revision of history.
Noting that there could be as many as three new members on the State Board of Education after the November elections, the ACLU is asking the board to put a moratorium on their deliberations until new members are sworn in next January.
“The State Board of Education has abused its power by inserting their narrow, personal beliefs into the development of what should be a world-class program of study,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas.
Claiming State Board of Education members have disregarded board policies and experts’ recommendations throughout the nearly year-long process, the ACLU wants the board to revisit its procedure for revising curriculum and textbook standards.
“The actions of the board of education have so seriously compromised its stature and brought into question its legitimacy that no one can take this curriculum seriously,” Burke said.
Those behind the open letter include educators from the University of Texas at Austin and UT-El Paso. The co-chairs are Emilio Zamora from UT-Austin and Keith A. Erekson of UTEP.
They call on the board to permit a public review and comment period on the new draft before final adoption of the standards.
Debbie Ratcliffe, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman, said the board already has had abundant public input and that there is still time for more. A month-long public comment period began April 16, and the board will have an all-day public hearing May 19, she said.
“So far, we’ve already had 163 people testify in person, and we’ve received 20,000 eMails. So we’ve already had a lot of public input at this point,” she said.
She said the board also has heard from academics.
“The board had an expert review panel, and some of those reviewers, although they didn’t come from the University of Texas, they did come from Texas A&M University, Texas Woman’s University, Texas State University, and American University,” she said.