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Today's Top News
Texas State Board of Education Continues Debate Over Standards for Social Studies
AUSTIN - State Board of Education members resumed their volatile debate over social studies standards Wednesday as the panel neared its first vote on what Texas students will be taught in U.S. history, government and other classes over the next decade.
The board postponed the consideration of several U.S. history proposals expected to divide members, working instead on a long list of amendments to the curriculum standards for other social studies subjects written by teams of teachers and academics.
The board is expected to take a preliminary vote on new standards this week and adopt the changes in May.
Board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, said he would seek board approval today for several amendments to the U.S. history standards, including one that would highlight Judeo-Christian values in American history.
Minority board members, who have called for the inclusion of more blacks and Hispanics among the historical figures to be covered, lost one vote Wednesday when the Republican majority deleted from the list an archbishop from El Salvador. Oscar Romero was assassinated in 1980 for speaking out against the country's repressive government.
Romero was included in the standards for world history until the board decided otherwise, saying he was not significant enough.
Earlier, board members listened to testimony from dozens of people trying to persuade them to make additions to the U.S. history standards - including more coverage of religious influences and important minority figures.
State legislators even tried to sway the board as the Texas Conservative Coalition - made up mostly of Republican lawmakers - and the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus presented their competing recommendations for U.S. history.
"We must not censor the history of Judeo-Christian faiths in our country," said Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, representing the conservative caucus. The group supports more emphasis on the role of religion in the founding of the nation.
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, representing the Mexican-American caucus, urged the board to consider the growing minority population in Texas and the importance of Hispanics in state and national history.
Rodriguez voiced concerns about the absence of important Hispanic figures and groups in the history standards.
Various civil rights groups also called on the board to avoid sanitizing the curriculum by sidestepping the often-violent conflicts that led to improvements for minorities.
"To make the claim that the gains in civil rights were granted by the majority, not earned by the courageous efforts of women and minorities, is painful and disrespectful to those who fought and suffered for those rights," said Yannis Banks of the Texas NAACP.
"Many people were battered, bruised, harassed and died just so I can have the rights I enjoy today," he said, objecting to efforts by some conservatives to give less emphasis to the civil rights movement.
Other witnesses complained that liberal individuals and groups are overrepresented in the standards. One said that to balance required coverage of the election of President Barack Obama last year, the history standards should also cover the backlash against the president and the Tea Party movement in Texas and the United States.
Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, told board members that nearly 14,000 e-mails have been received from people and groups wanting to have a say on the new standards.
Curriculum standards adopted by the board will remain in place for the next decade, dictating what is taught in government, history and other social studies classes in elementary and secondary schools. The standards also will be used to write textbooks and develop state tests for students.
Texas standards often wind up in thousands of schools in other states as textbook publishers tailor their books to those standards, then market those learning materials across the nation.
McLeroy, whose bid for another board term failed this month with a GOP primary loss, proposed most of the U.S. history standards considered by the board at an earlier meeting in January.
Among his amendments that were adopted was a requirement that Texas high school students learn about leading conservative groups from the 1980s and 1990s - but not about liberal or minority-rights groups.