The Texas Board of Education on May 21 voted to change the state curriculum of social studies and history classes to reflect a more positive view of capitalism, the military, Christianity and modern Republican figures on American history.
The reform was approved in a 9-5 vote, which split along party lines. Supporters believe the move merely evens out textbooks which were already “left-leaning.” Conservative board member, Cynthia Dunbar told those who attended the vote that the changes need to be made because America was founded as “a Christian land governed by Christian principles.”
However, many think the curriculum is a re-write of history and removes truth from Texas classrooms.
“It’s outrageous,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said in a conference call. “It’s going to lock kids into the dark ages, where the whole world’s been turned upside down—where Thomas Jefferson is not a founding father, there’s no good reason to talk about Thurgood Marshall, and Joe McCarthy is a hero.”
The new curriculum would remove Thomas Jefferson from a list of historical figures whose writings should be studied. It’s an omission that Rick Agosto (D), a board member from San Antonio, found maddening.
“I feel like we have too many chefs in the kitchen,” Agosto said in an emotional outburst during the hearing, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. “By removing Mr. Jefferson from a list of Enlightenment figures and then reinserting him in a hastily-revised section that deletes references to the Enlightenment, the board was mangling the intent of the history experts’ original proposal. This is an embarrassment.”
According to The New York Times, under the new curriculum students of the civil rights movement must “describe the role of individuals such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox and groups, including the Congressional bloc of southern Democrats, that sought to maintain the status quo.”
Last year, the same board voted to revise the state science curriculum to de-emphasize theories of the Big Bang, evolution, and cell formation, according to the Times.
Opponents said they were also concerned that the revised Texas curriculum may unintentionally spread to other states, if publishers choose not to modify textbooks printed for the large number of Texas students for use in other states with different curricula.
“Texas is a state that leads this country,” Jealous told the AP. “They need to slow down, back up and move in a new direction towards the truth.”
However, Arne Duncan, secretary, Department of Education, says that concern may be unwarranted.
“I think there’s been a misperception that what happens in Texas will happen in the rest of the country,” Duncan told the AP. “I’m less concerned about that. Textbook publishers have the ability to customize more than ever before.”