A report from a national conservative education think tank says social studies standards in Texas are "an unwieldy tangle" of "misrepresentations at every turn" that give students a "politicized distortion of history."
Texas joins 28 other states in receiving a failing grade — a D or below — from the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute. (Among the states faring worse than Texas: Alaska, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Vermont.) That's a downgrade from last year, when the state's social studies standards received a C. Among the criteria the group used to evaluate the standards were whether they had a coherent, chronological overviews of historical events; encouraged comprehension of the past on "its own terms" rather than prompting students to "judge the past through the lens of today’s values, standards and norms"; and offered a clear sequence of content across grade levels.
The report is the first from the Fordham Institute since last spring, when the State Board of Education adopted new social studies curriculum. Then, the state board — arguing that it was correcting a long-standing liberal bias in education — revised the social studies standards to highlight the role of religion in America's founding and promote capitalism. Many Texas teachers have criticized the new standards as too long and said they emphasize memorization over critical thinking. More than a thousand college historians have denounced them as historically inaccurate.
Most states' standards aim for political balance or tilt leftward, the report says, but Texas' curriculum is singled out as an exception — it's on the "leading edge of conservatism."
An excerpt from the findings:
Throughout the Texas standards, dozens of references (even the title of the high school economics course) offer a drumbeat of uncritical celebration of “the free enterprise system and its benefits”—resembling, in an inverted historical echo, Soviet schools harping on the glories of state socialism. Native Americans, disproportionately discussed in many other states, are almost totally missing. Slavery is downplayed and segregation barely mentioned—omissions pointedly noted by former U.S. education secretary (and Houston superintendent) Rod Paige. 16 Members of the SBOE also showed themselves determined to inject their personal religious beliefs into history education. “Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law)” and “Moses” are, incredibly, listed as the principal political influences on America’s founders. The separation of church and state, a much-debated and crucial concept in the drafting of the state constitutions (1777–1781) and the federal Constitution (1787), is simply dismissed.
Find the full report here.
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.