This is one in an occasional series outlining events in our state which demonstrate why the ACLU matters
By Anna L. Russo
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has garnered a plethora of national and local news lately.
The SBOE voted two weeks ago on new curriculum standards for Texas public schools. Considering that Texas has a heavy hand in the textbook business, changes in the social studies curriculum could not only affect Texas public schools, but schools across the nation.
With the vote on March 11th, the board moved to put a political bend on history and economics curriculum. The new curriculum for textbooks will limit discussion of economic systems to only discussing American capitalism, and de-emphasize the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government. The standards would also de-emphasize various civil rights leaders and add the Moral Majority and the Heritage Foundation.
In recent years, the ideologically split board has debated teaching evolution and Darwinism and the separation of church and state.
The Board continues to skew the curriculum by throwing out parts of history that recognize the separation of church and state, the freedom of religion in the United States, and the struggle of minorities and women for civil rights.
The Board has gone so far as to cut Thomas Jefferson out of the curriculum as a figure whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and William Blackstone. This is most likely due to conservatives dislike for Jefferson because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”
Mavis B. Knight, attempted to amend the curriculum and require students to study the reasons “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others,” but the amendment was struck down. Another sign of the ideological rather than educational nature of the curriculum change.
The ACLU of Texas along with several other organizations such as Anti-Defamation League, Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education, and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter to the SBOE before the vote urging them not to pass a curriculum that departs “from historical record.”
The organizations warned that the curriculum minimizes efforts by ethnic minorities and women to win equal economic opportunities and political rights. The proposed curriculum minimizes the impact of the civil rights movement in America and minimizes the role of civil rights advocates to achieve passage of the Civil Rights Acts and Equal Rights for Women.
Although the curriculum has passed the preliminary vote (there will be a final vote in May), the ACLU of Texas refuses to stand down in the midst of this unnecessary ideological conflict. The future of Texas hangs in the balance and the ACLU of Texas will continue to fight to protect the integrity of education in the State of Texas.