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Altering history education

Texas gains national attention for curriculum changes

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The Texas Board of Education drew national attention in September when they released a list of historical figures to be potentially cut from the state’s curriculum. Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller’s proposed removal caused the most controversy.

The Board reversed their decision to cut several of the figures, including Clinton and Keller, in a final vote on Nov. 16 after hearing from the public and openly debating the issue for nearly three days.

“I got a ton of calls and emails about the removal of Hillary Clinton,” Democrat and Board member Erika Beltran said in a Dallas Morning News interview. “She was the first female presidential nominee from a major U.S. political party. So regardless of our party affiliations, I think she is an important figure to keep.”

The final vote to keep Clinton in the curriculum was 12-2. One Board member did not vote. Five Democrats and 10 Republicans sit on the Board. One of the two members who voted for Clinton’s removal was Republican Board member Pat Hardy.

“I just do not respect the woman,” Hardy told the Dallas Morning News. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s done a lot of detrimental things to our country.”

Some, including U.S. history teacher Chris Porter and junior Julia Schneider, viewed the initial decision to cut Clinton and Keller as politically skewed.

“It shouldn’t be based on someone’s bias,” Julia Schneider said. “It should be based on what effect [they] had on history.”

Although the removal of certain figures and topics is a change to the required material, they can still be taught if the teacher decides they’re important enough.

“If they add something in, I’ll be teaching it,” Porter said. “And if they delete something out, I will determine whether I want to delete it out.”

The Board decided to shrink the requirements for students because they were concerned that the information is memorized instead of meaningfully learned. Their solution was to try and eliminate the issue of having too much material.

Both Schneider and Porter said that there is a lot to go over, but it’s the amount of time, or lack thereof, to learn it that creates a problem. There are only about 14 weeks out of each class until the students take the STAAR, however, each class is 18 weeks long.

“Maybe it’ll save us a little bit of time, but I think it’ll still feel like we have a lot to cover,” Porter said. “It’s just kind of the nature of it.”

Before the preliminary vote in September, board-nominated volunteer teachers met to rank historical figures on a 20 point scale. Those with low scores were suggested for removal.

“I think it’s good that teachers are included, but I think students should too because I feel like we’re the ones actually learning,” Schneider said.

The changes will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2019 for middle and high school students. No immediate change will be made to textbooks because they’re not up for revision this year.

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Altering history education