Textbook debate slogs through second day
HOUSTON The board's decisions will set the standards for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million public school students for the next 10 years. The monthslong process of adopting the curriculum has made the board a lightning rod for ideological debate that was expected to intensify Thursday. Some of the most prolonged debate came over whether to include Confederate President Jefferson Davis' inaugural address with a lesson on Abraham Lincoln's philosophical views; the board decided to include Davis. Also under fire was a proposed change that would refer to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade." The board rejected a renewed effort to include labor leader Dolores Huerta as an example of good citizenship in third-grade history classes. Huerta, who worked alongside Cesar Chavez for farmworkers' rights, was removed from the list in January amid concerns that she was affiliated with socialists. Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga offered an amendment Thursday to restore Huerta's name, but the board voted to reject it. Huerta is listed in a high school history class. The board also rejected an effort to add former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros to a fourth-grade example of notable Texans and spent prolonged time debating which Civil War battles and heroes from Texas should be added to a seventh-grade class. One of the board's most outspoken conservatives, Republican Don McLeroy, still plans to introduce several amendments Thursday that promise to be contentious. One would require lessons suggesting the nation's founders might not have intended a separation of church and state as interpreted by the courts, while another would suggest that the United Nations poses a threat to individual liberties. The board is scheduled to take a final vote Friday, despite repeated calls to delay the vote and start fresh. The standards also will be used to develop state tests and by textbook publishers that develop materials for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets. McLeroy believes the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed left after years of control by Democrats. He sees his job, along with that of other conservatives on the board, as bringing it back into balance. But former Education Secretary Rod Paige, who served under President George W. Bush, asked the board Wednesday to stop putting politics in the state's classrooms. In another McLeroy amendment, he proposes casting early 20th century muckrakers and reform leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and W.E.B. DuBois in a negative light by contrasting their tone with the optimism of immigrants as told in a 1998 book written by religious painter Thomas Kinkade. Other proposals would tone down criticisms of the Red Scare and Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-communist hearings of the 1950s. They would also portray the UN General Assembly, funding for global humanitarian relief and global environmental initiatives as threats to individual freedom. Educators have blasted the proposed curriculum for politicizing education. Teachers also have said the document is too long and will force students to memorize lists of names rather than thinking critically.
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