Texas’ retooled social studies curriculum will keep the word “heroic” when describing the Alamo defenders despite efforts to delete the term, according to a preliminary vote Friday by the State Board of Education.
Texas social studies lessons drew national attention this week as students, teachers, advocacy groups and even the governor weighed in with their views to the board during public hearings that touched on the Alamo, the causes of the Civil War and the need to include more histories relevant to African-Americans and Hispanics. Students from the Fort Worth school district were among those who offered their opinions to the board.
By Friday, when the vote came in, the board drew national attention with news reports that it was keeping the term “heroic” and a headline from The Dallas Morning News titled: “Texas board votes to eliminate Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller from history curriculum.”
Dan Quinn, spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, said the controversy around instruction on the Alamo, Clinton and Keller are issues that can be debated, but they overshadow the efforts of many experts to push the board to eliminate “false and misleading claims about states’ rights, Moses and separation of church and state.”
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“Let’s get the big ideas right, and the board isn’t even doing that right,” said Quinn, whose organization monitors education issues. He added: “States rights is a lie.”
Quinn’s view was echoed by Fort Worth students who asked that Texas social studies be upfront about slavery being the cause of the Civil War.
The board rejected a proposal by an advisory group that pushed that the term “heroic” be dropped as well as reference to the “Victory or Death” letter by Lt. Col. William Barret Travis, according to a press release issued by the Texas Education Agency Friday. The group contended the heroism would be evident in the instruction and so adding the word “heroic” was unnecessary.
The board unanimously voted to include this revised language to the seventh-grade Texas history standards: “Explain the issues surrounding significant events to the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, the siege of the Alamo, William B. Travis’ letter ‘To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,’ and the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there, the Constitutional Convention of 1836; Fannin’s surrender at Goliad; and the Battle of San Jacinto.”
Donna Bahorich, chair of the board, said in a news release: “I appreciate the hard work of all those who served on the social studies work groups. The board accepted many of their recommendations, but the board unanimously felt the need to defend the Alamo.
“Texas has a unique history and it has been clear in this past week that Texans feel passionately about telling this story,” Bahorich wrote.
Friday’s vote is a first reading or preliminary vote. The final vote will take place in November.
The board also gave final approval of a new course called “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies.” The course will be available in the 2019-2020 academic year.