A recent report by an education watchdog group claims that the current Texas history and social studies curriculum standards “distort instruction on slavery and the Civil War, civil rights, religion” and a host of other topics.
“The State Board of Education’s adoption in 2010 of new social studies curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, was in many ways a triumph of ideology over facts,” is the opening line to the report, titled ‘Taking Politics Out of Classrooms: Recommendations for Revising the Texas Social Studies Curriculum Standards’, released by the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.
One of the primary criticisms made in the report is that Texas State Board of Education members “deliberately downplayed the central role of slavery in causing the Civil War.”
“In fact, one board member even argued that slavery had really been just an ‘after issue’ or ‘side issue’ of the war. So the history standards place slavery last – behind ‘sectionalism’ and ‘states’ rights’ – in the list of causes,” the report notes.
The report is also critical of what it calls “a failure to address adequately the systemic and brutal discrimination Black Americans experienced after the Civil War.”
“During and after Reconstruction, there is no mention [in the standards] of the Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, or sharecropping; the term ‘Jim Crow’ never appears. Incredibly, racial segregation is only mentioned in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces,” the report states.
The report was released ahead of a process where current Board members will begin to “streamline” the standards this year, and is meant to persuade them to “remove misinformation – often inserted to satisfy political biases – that distorts factual history and undermines the ability of educators to teach and students to succeed.”
“The board has heard the comments that the standards are too long so through this streamlining process, it will work to shorten the standards,” State Board spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe said. “There might be some minor wordsmithing to smooth out sections where standards have been deleted but there won’t be substantial rewrites.”
When asked if she could dispute the veracity of any of the claims made in the Texas Freedom Network report, Ratcliffe noted she was aware of the report, had not read it all and therefore could not “offer a point-by-point review.”
Dr. Edward Countryman, a history professor at Southern Methodist University, contributed heavily to the research that formed the basis of the Texas Freedom Network report.
As a historian, Countryman has authored or edited several books on the American Revolution and the role that Black Americans played in early American history, including slavery.
Previously, Countryman led a team of SMU doctoral students who inspected ever single textbook on offer to the State Board of Education. Their work resulted in a 120-page report that detailed the “problems and inaccuracies” in the books.
“[Board members] threw out what teachers and scholars suggested not to be in there and threw in a garbage bag of this, that and something else,” Countryman said. “I am not going to say that somebody is deliberately lying [to public school students.] I am going to say that the standards that have been produced are terrible and that Texas has a chance to fix them.”