Texas Debates How History Should Be Taught in Schools

Parents, teachers and activists began sounding off Wednesday on how history topics from the fall of the Roman Empire to Texas cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash will be taught to millions of Texas children for the next decade.

Parents, teachers and activists began sounding off Wednesday on how history — topics from the fall of the Roman Empire to Texas cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash — will be taught to millions of Texas children for the next decade.

The State Board of Education started hearing testimony, before a tentative vote this week on new social studies curriculum standards that will serve as the framework in Texas classrooms. But, as usual in votes before the conservative-led board, the wide-reaching guidelines are full of potential ideological flashpoints.

Our children may not learn how our country really began

Early quibbles over how much prominence to give civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, and the inclusion of Christmas seem to have been smoothed over in the draft now being considered. Board Chairman Gail Lowe said Wednesday that Christmas and activist Cesar Chavez will not be removed from the standards.

But board members are crafting dozens of amendments to be raised for consideration before the tentative vote, expected Thursday. The 15-member board won’t adopt final standards until March.

The curriculum it chooses will be the guideposts for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million K-12 students for 10 years. The standards will be used to develop state tests and by textbook publishers who develop material for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets.

Much of the conversation ahead of the hearing has turned to how much emphasis will be given to the religious beliefs of the nation’s founding fathers, with some activists lobbying to promote and highlight their Christianity. Others who promote the separation of church and state are prepared for battle.

“Some board members and the non-expert ideologues they appointed to a review panel have made it clear that they want students to learn that the founding fathers intended America to be an explicitly Christian nation with laws based on their own narrow interpretations of the Bible,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network , which opposes initiatives pushed by Christian conservatives.

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