Friday, April 16, 2010

The Saga of the Texas Schoolbook Massacre

Why would any Textbook Committee in its right mind want to take Thomas Jefferson out of school textbooks? He was the smartest man of his time. There have been very few like him.

"When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone"

All of my students know who Thomas Jefferson is. But if Jefferson Davis is put in his place, everybody's IQ will plummet...

As it is, Texas has a reputation for "not so bright" people. This is a myth, there are actually lots of intelligent people around here. However, if Thomas Jefferson is taken out of our school textbooks, who knows what else would be lost to our education system. As mentioned before in this blog, Texas is the laughing stock of the world these days because of the textbook controversy. See "Did Texans Walk With the Dinosaurs?" London Guardian, February 19, 2010 and "'Texas schoolbook massacre' rewrites American history," London Independent, March 28, 2010.

From Historians at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso

Dear Colleagues,

Please read carefully, distribute widely, and consider signing the accompanying “Open Letter to the Texas State Board of Education.” We invite you to read it and add your name to the list of signatures by visiting

The Texas State Board of Education will hold a final public hearing about the standards in the middle of May. Historians at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso have drafted the letter for presentation before the hearing.

As you have probably heard from reports in the national media, the Texas State Board of Education is revising the state’s social studies curriculum­, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Though numerous errors are circulating in the media, it is true that a majority of the board has voted to approve a curriculum that minimizes the history and significance of diversity in the state and emphasizes narrow ideological partisanship over broader education and critical thinking. Information about the review process and an online archive of media coverage is available at

Open Letter to the Texas State Board of Education

Public schools must provide students with a sound elementary and high school education that prepares them to succeed in college and their future careers. Such a sound education must be fair, accurate and balanced and it must be based on rigorous, mainstream scholarship, not on ideological agendas.

Those of us who teach and conduct research in colleges and universities have grown concerned, however, that social studies curriculum standards in Texas do not meet student needs. We also believe that the Texas State Board of Education has been derelict in its duty to revise the public school curriculum. In short, recent proposals by Board members have undermined the study of the social sciences in our public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of American society.

Some of the problematic revisions that they have proposed include:

* Weakening the study of constitutional protections for religious liberty that keep government out of matters of faith;
* Minimizing the struggle of women and ethnic minorities for equal and civil rights;
* Striking Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political changes since the 1700s; and
* Excluding an important historical figure from Latin America because some board members did not recognize him

The integrity of the curriculum revision process has been compromised and we propose that the Board restore the trust of the public and the academic community by proceeding as follows:

* Delay the final adoption of social studies curriculum standards;
* Allow curriculum teams and a new panel of qualified, credentialed content experts from the state’s colleges and universities to review changes that the Board has made and prepare a new draft of the standards that is fair, accurate and balanced;
* Permit the public to review and comment on the new draft of the standards before final adoption; and
* Make final changes to the draft of the standards only after public consultation with classroom teachers and scholars who are experts in the appropriate fields of study.

Like all members of the Texas State Board of Education, we have a vested interest in giving our schoolchildren the tools that they need to succeed in college and their future careers. For genuine college and work readiness to occur the Board must adhere to a more transparent, fair, and inclusive process of curriculum revisions, and it must make full and effective use of the faculty and researchers from our colleges and universities in Texas who can offer expert assistance and guidance.

Thank you for your attention

Again, if you wish to add your name to the list of signatures, visit the following site:

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