New Social Studies Text Books Cause Debate

The decisions the Texas Board of Education made regarding who to place on a panel of experts charged with revising the Texas social studies curriculum have miffed many people.

The inclusion of staunch conservatives particularly raised the ire of the Texas Freedom Network, a “mainstream voice to counter the religious right.” It had problems with two of the men, Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries, and David Barton of a group called WallBuilders, calling them, “absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education.”

However, the panel has some polar opposites and is divided equally between mainstream academics and religious conservatives (although Prof. Daniel Dreisbach of American University in Washington, D.C., technically fits into both categories).

Each member of the panel reviewed the current textbooks and offered a review. Differences of opinion arose (obviously, with such a group), mainly over the inclusion and presentation of minority figures such as Cesar Chavez.

“I don’t think it would hurt to provide at least one example of a Latino national figure among this list of prominent Americans,” Jesus Francisco De La Teja notes in his report, suggesting Cesar Chavez.

Barton disagreed with Chavez's significance.

“Cesar Chavez may be a choice representing diversity but he certainly lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others; and his open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is a praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone ‘who modeled active participation in the democratic process,’” he said. 

Fortunately the panel will also review the work of teams of teachers and others, and the Board will be making the final decision on these and many other sensitive issues next year.

Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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