The defenders of the Alamo were not saints. Nobody who really knows Texas’ history thinks they were.
But they died taking a courageous stand for independence against a giant army backed by the heavy-handed central government of Mexico, and that’s what Texas seventh-graders should be taught.
That’s why it was surprising to hear last week that the elected Texas State Board of Education actually had to vote on whether to restore a phrase in seventh-grade history lessons about the “heroism” of the Alamo defenders.
As it turns out, this really wasn’t some attempt to injure Texans’ pride.
An advisory committee was assigned to shorten the curriculum, and decided that teaching the Battle of the Alamo and its central characters was plenty without specifically telling teachers to praise the defenders.
Only one person had complained before Sept. 6, when Texas Monthly blasted the headline: “Should Texas Schoolchildren Be Taught That Alamo Defenders Were ‘Heroic’?”
Two months before Election Day, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke up immediately against “political correctness.” Land Commissioner George P. Bush chimed in that the change was “nonsense.”
The change sounded as if Texas had decided to quit taking a side in the Revolution. That wasn’t the idea.
Look, the Revolution’s causes and context are complicated. As with the American Civil War, secession divided families and pitted brother against brother.
There were courageous leaders and soldiers who fought for both Texas and Mexico, but there is no denying that Texians and Tejanos fought to uphold settlers’ freedom and liberty.
The State Board of Education made other preliminary curriculum changes that were less sure-footed. For example, the board took out an elementary school lesson on activist Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf from birth, and high school history lessons on groundbreaking presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Barry Goldwater.
All the changes face a final vote in November.
This is what we ask of the State Board of Education and our schools: Teach our children all the facts about Texas and U.S. history. Tell them the good and bad. Then let them make up their own mind about the heroes and villains.
But along the way, don’t lose track of Texans’ courageous fight for independence, or the stirring inspiration of the Alamo.