Texas Board of Ed to battle over the role of minorities, religion in history

Early next year, minority advocates will face off against the religious right in what statesman.com called “a fight…that could make the last one look like a mild skirmish.”

The setting is the Texas Board of Education social studies hearings. Like Colorado, Texas is in the middle of revising its school standards. And the enormous Texas education market gives the state distinct influence among textbook publishers across the nation:

Nearly every state has its own curriculum standards, and there are scores of social studies texts to choose from at most grade levels, so what happens in Texas won’t necessarily affect other states. But the Texas market is huge, so most big publishers aggressively seek approval from the board, in some cases adopting the majority’s editing suggestions nearly verbatim.

Having just finished a battle over whether evolution should be taught in schools (it should, decided the board, but so should creationist critiques), the board now has to decide how much emphasis to place on religion in America’s history and whether the curriculum includes too many minority figures or too few.

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Three reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

“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,” said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

Three other reviewers, all selected by politically moderate or liberal members of the board, recommended less-sweeping changes to the existing curriculum. But one suggested including more diverse role models, especially Latinos, in teaching materials. “We have tended to exclude or marginalize the role of Hispanic and Native American participants in the state’s history,” said Jesús F. de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University.

The state recently began holding public hearings on the matter, and the board is expected to vote on the matter in early January. Hundreds of people are expected to attend the January meeting.

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Katie Redding

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