Thursday, June 7, 2018

What "Counts" as School Knowledge Here in Texas?

The Children are Watching

As a curriculum theorist, I’ve spent my career studying what “counts” as school knowledge?,  whose knowledge is of most worth?,  and who decides?

The Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movements created both the opportunity and the societal will to examine our textbooks and our school lessons for the truths they included, the lies they told (like The Lies My Teachers Told Me by James W. Loewen).  Perhaps most important, we learned to ask what histories they omitted, the people whose stories never made it into "The Story" of American history.  For decades Texas’ official science textbooks omitted evolution, and even in recent years the debate over “creation science” as essential to balance “the theory of evolution” has eaten up hours of State Board of Education textbook hearings and kept a Texas’ prominence in the routines of late-night comedians.   Just a few years ago the debate was whether Thomas Jefferson should be in the textbooks, not because he owned slaves but because he strongly favored the separation of church and state. The controversy over whether Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall were appropriate role models for children was an added comic touch:  after all, the law school at Texas Southern University, a state university here in Houston, is the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

So here we go again:  The social studies curriculum is again up for debate.  Thank goodness the Texas Freedom Network is on top of this new round of curriculum policies. One might cynically wonder if the legislature and State Board of Education have a strategy to keep Texas children ignorant.  (That would make it easier to close public schools, a goal of our lieutenant governor and the politicians essentially owned by the charter school lobby and its billionaire backers, but surely there are people in power who don't share that goal).

For now, lets be less cynical and rely on Texas Freedom Network’s information and campaign for #Teach the Truth. Learn about this curriculum hearing — attend if you can.  Let the members know your strong support for truthful, culturally rich, research-based, engaging textbooks and social studies curricula for our children’s schools. After all, the children are watching!  (And from my research, when they don’t find school knowledge credible, they withdraw from learning — they see that the adults (we!) don’t take them seriously as students.)  Help make Texas kids smart!

Dear Concerned Texans:
Eight years ago the State Board of Education approved deeply controversial social studies curriculum standards that even conservative reviewers have called “a politicized distortion of history” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.”

The standards for Texas public schools whitewash the history of slavery and the Civil War, politicize the struggle for civil rights, push a religious agenda, neglect the history of Native Americans and Mexican Americans, and promote other right-wing causes. 

This year the state board has the opportunity to fix the standards and ensure that social studies classes  #TeachTheTruth to Texas students. On Tuesday, June 12, the state board will hold its first public hearing on proposed revisions to the standards. Read about some of the proposed revisions  here.
What can you do?

Join our campaign to get politics out of our public school curriculum standards and #TeachTheTruth.
Sign the Petition
TFN will testify at the hearing alongside scholars, educators and others who are tired of seeing the far right politicize our children’s public schools. Anyone interested in testifying can register here between 8 a.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Monday. 

The hearing begins at 9 a.m., Tuesday, June 12, in the William B. Travis Building at 1701 Congress Avenue in Austin.
Keep up the fight!
Dan Quinn 
Communications Director

To weigh in on what our children should be learning in social studies, click on the “comments” pencil here.

No comments: