AUSTIN -- The Texas State Board of Education was set to get down to work Wednesday afternoon on the social studies curriculum standards that determine what more than 4.7 million Texas schoolchildren learn and what's included in textbooks.
But first, they were taking about two hours of public testimony on the revisions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. More than 50 people had signed up.
One of the first to give testimony, Joe Flores, a representative of the League of Latin American Citizens from San Antonio, asked the board to switch minority historical figures from the "such as" to the "including" categories in the curriculum standards, thus giving them more emphasis.
He said having more inclusive learning environments might help with the state's high school dropout problem and other challenges.
"I would venture to say that a large part of the lack of interest of the students today could very well be that there is no relevance in history to their surname," Flores said. "There is no relevance of historical figures to then develop the intellectual curiosity to say, 'If they can do it, I can do it too.' "
The board plans to take a first vote on Friday. They'll have a final vote in May.
Work on them has gained nationwide attention, with critics accusing both conservative board members and the teachers on the reviewing committees of trying to insert their own slants.
At the board's January meeting, a day of public testimony was held. Then, members spent about 10 hours adding and subtracting from the proposed revisions. Topics like communism, World War I propaganda and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer's significance were discussed.
On Wednesday, Texas Rep. Wayne Christian presented a letter from the Texas Conservative Coalition of the Texas House of Representatives. It encouraged the board to retain references to the Judeo-Christian heritage of the state and nation, keep references to "American expansionism" and historical figures like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.
"We fear that State Board members have been pressured throughout the TEKS revision process to wash the TEKS clean of any references to the Judeo-Christian faiths while promoting references to other religions," the letter said.
It later continued: "Our nation was founded by Judeo-Christian leaders, and our founding documents reflect Judeo-Christian values. The TEKS for history and social studies, therefore, must neither trivialize nor censor historical import of Judeo-Christian faiths."
This is the first board meeting after its controversial former chairman Don McLeroy, of College Station, was defeated in the March 2 GOP primary. The ousting of McLeroy, who has become well-known for his Creationist views, was widely seen as a rejection of the Christian conservative block that has been influential on the board.
However, board member Ken Mercer, of San Antonio, another conservative, won at the polls. When describing the social studies TEKS process Wednesday, Mercer said board members have had to fight against "political revisionism" and attempts to teach students about being "Global citizens" over being American citizens.
TRACI SHURLEY, 817-390-7641