A number of major historical figures, including Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller, could be cut from the K-12 social studies curriculum in Texas' public schools as the State Board of Education considers "streamlining" efforts following a preliminary vote Friday, The Dallas Morning News reports.
According to two teachers who helped make the recommendations, the state makes students learn so much that they were memorizing the material instead of actually learning it, so the group used a rubric to grade each figure and rank who is "essential" based on questions like "Was the person from an underrepresented group?” and "Will their impact stand the test of time?"
The board discussed other parts of the curriculum, like a reference to the "heroism" of the defenders of the Alamo or a requirement for students to explain how "Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict" in the Middle East, but nothing is set in stone yet, and the board will hold a final vote in November.
Under this proposal, Texas classrooms would continue using the same textbooks, and teachers could still include the eliminated material in their lessons — they just won’t have to, The Dallas Morning News notes. However, what Texas teaches and what textbooks its teachers use undoubtedly influences the rest of the nation. It’s the second-biggest state in the country, with 5.4 million school children statewide, and some say its massive size has driven the national textbook market, according to the Houston Chronicle.
This isn’t the first or second time Texas has been criticized for the history material it teaches — or doesn’t. In 2010, the Board of Education approved a conservative-leaning social studies curriculum using textbooks that downplayed slavery as the cause of the Civil War, The New York Times reported. A year later, another social studies textbook went viral because it referred to African slaves as immigrant “workers.” And in 2014, several inaccuracies and exaggerations were found in potential history, geography and government textbooks — with one stating that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy, The Washington Post reported.
It’s not the first time a history curriculum has gotten national attention, either. Earlier this year, the College Board said AP World History teachers were struggling to get through the material, so the nonprofit suggesting starting the exam at 1450 and cutting thousands of years from the curriculum. Criticism poured in, calling the proposal Eurocentric, and the board moved the start date up to 1200. But some say adding back 250 years of material is still not enough.
When dealing with a subject that chronicles hundreds or even thousands of years, it can be difficult for educators to get through it all in a relatively short time period. However, as it stands, women’s history is already lacking in textbooks and classroom lesson plans, and including all minority groups — including those with disabilities, like Helen Keller — in history curricula stands to make all students feel included and represented. In understanding key historical moments and figures, it’s important to get the full scope, education leaders say, and to do that successfully, it’s key to include these influential perspectives that have changed history.