The Texas State Board of Education has made nationwide headlines in recent weeks by rewriting the curriculum standards for its k-12 textbooks. Texas is the 500-pound guerilla in textbook publishing. It has the second-largest textbook market after California and a highly centralized way of buying the books. Long story short, Texas often creates the template for others states’ textbooks.
As we reported back in January, the board’s conservative majority has already created absurdities in the k-8 social studies and high school history standards. For instance, the new standards include mentions of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly but pointedly leave out progressives like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Starting Wednesday, the board will take up work on the rest of the standards, which include high school social studies and geography.
The State Board of Education is elected. It responds to public pressure. In fact, that pressure has already kept greater injustices from happening. Two board members originally wanted to leave out famous Americans like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall. This is part of a larger plan to write progressives and people of color out of history books. The Chavez-Marshall proposal died of media ridicule. There’s no guarantee the board’s next proposal will do the same.
Texas teachers should be leading the charge against this affront to history. But teachers and academics in other states can and should make their voices heard. The Texas Freedom Network has a good summary of what has happened so far along with links to great background articles. Read and act. Don’t sit this one out.