Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller released the following statement after a divided State Board of Education gave preliminary approval to new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools:
“Some board members themselves acknowledged this morning that the process for revising curriculum standards in Texas is seriously broken, with politics and personal agendas dominating just about every decision. We could probably choose a handful of names at random from a phone book and find folks who demonstrate more competence and responsibility in deciding what nearly 5 million Texas kids learn in their public school classrooms.”
During meetings in January and this week, the state board made numerous changes to standards proposed by teachers, scholars and other curriculum writers over the past year. Among the decisions made by the board this week:
- The board rejected a proposed standard requiring students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” That means the board opposes teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America.
- Even as board members continued to demand that students learn about “American exceptionalism,” the board stripped Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. In Jefferson’s place, the board’s religious conservatives succeeded in inserting Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. They also removed the reference to “Enlightenment ideas” in the standard, requiring that students should simply learn about the influence of the “writings” of various thinkers (including Calvin and Aquinas).
- The board removed the word “capitalism” from the standards, mandating that the term for that economic system be called “free enterprise” throughout the standards. Board members such as Terri Leo and Ken Mercer charged that “capitalism” is a negative term used by “liberal professors in academia.”
- The board removed Santa Barraza from a Grade 7 Texas history standard on Texans who have made contributions to the arts because board conservatives objected to one of her (many) paintings, which included a depiction of a woman’s exposed breasts. Some of Barraza’s works had been displayed in the Texas Governor’s Mansion during the gubernatorial administration of George W. Bush in the 1990s.
- Board members added Friedrich von Hayek to a standard in the high school economics course even though some board members acknowledged that they had no idea who the influential Austrian-born economist even was.
- In a high school government standard about “the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic,” board conservatives added a requirement that students learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
The board decided in November to proceed on its revision of the standards without further formal input from scholars and classroom teachers. As a result, board members cast their votes in January and this week without any guidance from classroom teachers or experts in the social sciences.