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Who's In and Who's Out in Texas Social Studies Draft


Cesar Chavez, a Latino civil rights and labor leader, is cited in the draft of the revised Texas social studies standards, even though one of the six "experts" appointed by the Texas state board of education to advise standards writing teams questioned if he should be included.


But some other historical figures who are listed in the social studies standards now in place in Texas have been removed from the proposed standards and replaced with other people.

In the U.S. history standards for high school, for example, Shirley Chisholm, the late congresswoman from New York*, and Franklin D. Roosevelt have been crossed out from the list of "significant political and social leaders in the United States." Henry B. Gonzalez, Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Billy Graham have been added. FDR did make it into a standard about the Great Depression.

In addition, Bill Gates, Sam Walton, and Oprah Winfrey have been added as examples in the U.S. history standards of "American entrepreneurs."

An article published over the weekend, "School Books in Texas May Get Browner," in the San Antonio Express-News talks about how the proposed social studies standards have included a number of important Latino historical figures. Earlier this summer, The Dallas Morning News reported on how some Texans feel Cesar Chavez belongs in the standards and others don't. See the Associated Press preview of issues that may arise in the standards-approval process here.

EdWeek has just published an article I wrote about how the U.S. history part of the proposed social studies standards is likely to be most controversial. The board of education is scheduled to have public hearings on the draft standards next month. A vote is expected in March.

*corrected from an earlier version, after an alert reader pointed out my mistake. I had said Chisholm was from Texas and I was dead wrong.

Photo credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP


Shirley Chisholm is not from Texas. She is from Brooklyn, NY. She was the first African American female Assemblywoman and Congresswoman from Brooklyn. You must be referring to Barbara Jordan. Both women were great.

Gail Lowe, now chair of the Texas State Board, has been quoted by the AP as follows:

Marshall and Chavez are “not particularly known for their citizenship,” Lowe said. “Figures we use to represent those character ideals (citizenship, patriotism and community involvement) and the type of persons we want your students to emulate should be politically neutral.”


This is exactly the kind of issue that results for highly prescriptive standards that bleed over into being curriculum. If the concept that is being taught is "citizenship," certainly there are many, many examples and no one ought to be limited. And I would disagree with Lowe with regard to the appropriateness of both Marshall and Chavez. Gates, Walton and Winfrey are all entreprenuers--although I might go for Madame C. J. Walker or Brownie Wise, who each made unique contributions. But if the point is to understand entrepreneurship, well there are many solid examples. I would ask, why limit ourselves?

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