Social studies teachers from Texas are meeting this summer to write new standards -- with a battle raging over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
To aid the drafting effort, the Texas Board of Education is considering recommendations from six outside appointed experts – three conservatives and three moderate-to-liberals. The board may agree with, modify or reject the reviewers’ suggestions.
Three of those expert reviewers from the conservative side want the state’s K-12 program to highlight the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history.
"We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it," Rev. Peter Marshall, one of the reviewers told the Journal.
Curriculum standards are updated about every 10 years — with the last social studies standards for Texas students being adopted in 1997. The social studies teachers' recommendations are sent to the 15-member board of education that has the final authority to revise standards.
Meanwhile, three other reviewers — selected by the more liberal members of the board — recommended less dramatic changes to the curriculum, including one reviewer that wants more diverse role models, especially Latinos, in teaching materials.
The San Antonio Express-News reports that whatever looms for the kids, the revised curriculum and textbooks are scheduled to impact classrooms — and 4.7 million students — in fall 2013.
“This is something that every parent would want to be paying attention to. This will determine whether or not the kids get the education needed to succeed in college and jobs in the future,” said Dan Quinn of the Austin-based Texas Freedom Network. “If we are going to politicize our kids' education, that will put our kids behind other kids when they're competing for college and good-paying jobs on down the road.”
According to a preliminary draft of the proposed standards, biographies of Washington, Lincoln and Austin have been removed from the early grades, Brooke Terry of the Texas Public Policy Foundation told the Express-News.
The draft also nixes Independence Day, Veterans Day and anthems and mottos for both Texas and the United States in a section on holidays, customs and celebrations, Terry said.
What’s more, in the draft, the Liberty Bell has been removed from a section on patriotic symbols.
In other developments from the ongoing process: One of the reviewers suggested the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall be removed from history books on grounds that he's not an appropriate example as a historical figure of influence. Two reviewers want migrant farm labor union leader César Chávez, who died in 1993, removed as an example of a significant role model for “active participation in the democratic process.”
“Chávez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation,” said Peter Marshall, head of Marshall Ministries and a Presbyterian minister and author who lives in Cape Cod, Mass.
Education board member Ken Mercer, a Republican, noted to the Express-News that the update was designed to account for new historical events, such as the election of the country's first black president.
“Instead … left-leaning experts are determined to begin with a blank sheet of paper and totally rewrite American history,” Mercer said. “I asked why the ‘expert' version of major national holidays to be studied by first-graders failed to include Veterans Day and Independence Day. The response was ‘that was covered in kindergarten.'”
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