According to the Dallas Morning News, the Texas State Board of Education, as part of an effort to “streamline” the social studies curriculum in public schools, has voted to remove figures such as Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller from the collection of mandatory topics students in every grade are required to learn about in the classroom.
The vote was a preliminary one, so the board can modify the curriculum changes up until the final vote in November.
Up until now, third-grade social studies teachers have been required to educate Texas students about Helen Keller, the subject of the play and film The Miracle Worker who was left blind and deaf by illness in early childhood yet learned to communicate and became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.
Also, high school history students have been required to learn about Hillary Clinton, the first woman to win a major political party’s presidential nomination. According to the Morning News, students were previously given an assignment to “evaluate the contributions of significant political and social leaders in the United States,” including Hillary Clinton, Andrew Carnegie, Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Mid-20th century U.S. conservative political figure Barry Goldwater was also removed from that teaching requirement, while the board voted to retain evangelist Billy Graham:
The Dallas Morning News spoke with two teachers from the group of board-nominated volunteers that made the recommendations. Both said the state required students to learn about so many historical figures that it resulted in rote memorization of dates and names instead of real learning.
The 15-member work group came up with a rubric for grading every historical figure to rank who is “essential” to learn and who isn’t. The formula asked questions like, “Did the person trigger a watershed change”; “Was the person from an underrepresented group”; and “Will their impact stand the test of time?”
Out of 20 points, Keller scored a 7 and Clinton scored a 5.
By contrast, local members of the Texas Legislature (whom fourth-graders learn about) got a perfect score, as did Barbara Jordan, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Henry B. González. President Donald Trump isn’t included in the list by name, but students are required to learn about the current president, governor and mayor.
Some of the other curriculum changes approved by the education board that affect the history classes of some 5.4 million schoolchildren were reported as follows
Remove the phrase “such as holding public officials to their word” from a requirement that students learn “how individuals can participate voluntarily in civic affairs at state and local levels” (this phrase was removed from fourth grade for “not being grade appropriate” and from third grade for “redundancy.” However, it is still included in the first-grade social studies curriculum).
Amend section on the Civil War to recognize the “central role of the expansion of slavery in causing the Civil War and other contributing factors including sectionalism and states’ rights.” Previous language included a list of factors, among them slavery and states’ rights.
Reinsert requirement to learn about the William B. Travis letter and a reference to “the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives” at the Alamo. (The work group had recommended cutting them.)
Reinsert references to “Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law)” in section on “major intellectual, philosophical, political, and religious traditions that informed the American founding.”
Reinsert the biblical figure of Moses and remove Thomas Hobbes from section on “individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding.”