Texas board tentatively OKs social studies curricula

AUSTIN, Texas ? The Texas State Board of Education turned back some controversial revisions to social studies standards in meetings March 10-12, retaining requirements that students learn about historical notables such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison and adding language about significant political ideas, including the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” cited in the Declaration of Independence.

Texas, the front line in the cultural battles over public school curricula of late, is influential in the textbook market because it buys or distributes about 48 million books annually, influencing textbook content for most other states.

The new standards, approved on the first reading by an 11-4 vote on March 12, will face a final vote in May when the board meets. Standards for given subjects are revised every 10 years. The board has a 10-5 Republican majority and an eight-member conservative voting bloc.

At meetings late last year, references to Christmas and Rosh Hashanah were reinserted into the standards after attempts by a revision committee of educators and historians to scuttle them in favor of Diwali, a five-day Hindu festival.

The board also rejected attempts to change date references of A.D. and B.C. to C.E. and B.C.E. (common era and before common era, respectively), despite contention from board member Mavis Knight (D-Dallas) that B.C.E. and C.E. are now standard in academic circles.

In other notable changes, the board added references to:

?free market economist Milton Friedman, who heavily influenced Ronald Reagan’s supply-side approach to economics, as a notable contributor to economics;

?the idea of “American exceptionalism”?that American ideals are different and unique from other nations;

?America as a “constitutional republic” rather than a “democracy”;

?major political ideas in history including inalienable rights, the divine right of kings, social contract theory, and the rights of resistance to illegitimate government.

Over the last few months, the board received nearly 14,000 e-mails from constituents about the proposed new standards, Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas, told the board.

The board drew national media attention for its latest round of meetings, similar to last year, when it ratified new science standards requiring biology students to “analyze, evaluate and critique” scientific theories, “examining all sides of scientific evidence” with “critical thinking.”

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