Mike Kueber's Blog

February 16, 2011

History standards for Texas schools

Last year, Texas was one of two states that refused to participate in an interstate consortium to develop nationwide standards for public-school curricula.  Our position was that, because our standards were already top-notch, there was no good reason for us to allow others to dilute those standards.  (That’s a Texas thing.)  But, according to an article in today’s San Antonio Express-News, our standards for teaching history aren’t as good as we thought they were. 

The Express-News article concerns a report issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (a D.C. think tank not associated with Fordham University).  The report is highly critical Texas’s new history standards that were adopted last year by a staunchly conservative State Board of Education.  According to the report’s authors, the State Board had attempted to remove prior left-wing bias, but had over-reacted so that now there is a right-wing bias (over-emphasizing religion, patriotism, and American exceptionalism):

  • They are trying to resurrect the old triumphal narrative in which everything in American history is wonderful as opposed to the left-wing narrative in which America is uniquely evil.  In the end, who suffers but students, because they don’t learn real history at all?”

To make matters worse, the Board failed to correct the existing left-wing bias for teaching history like a social-studies course:

  • While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points….  The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content….”

The Express-News relies on the Fordham report to support its position that the State Board is an embarrassment that needs to be brought to its senses.  The E-N article is filled with quotations of the Institute’s harsh criticism of the Texas standards, and the quotations are an accurate reflection of the Institute’s report.  But the E-N fails to note that, although the Texas standards received a “D” grade, so did nine other states.  Furthermore, 19 states received a failing grade of “F.”  Thus, only 22 states did better than Texas. 

In the world of education, that is not a surprising ranking for Texas to have.  So let’s not act like these right-leaning standards are a major problem with Texas education.