Public school students in Texas will be using a new textbook for their social studies class when they begin school again in the fall — and the controversial contents of the text will be based on state academic standards that skirt the issue of racial segregation and leave out information about the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws.
Emma Brown of The Washington Post reports that the Civil War is explained in the textbooks as a conflict concerning "sectionalism, state's rights, and slavery." The writing of this description is in a deliberate order which puts slavery in a secondary role in causing the conflict, say some members of the state board of education.
In the wake of the killings of nine black church members in South Carolina last month, a backlash against the flying of the Confederate battle flag has begun, since to some it is a memorial to Southern history and to others it is a symbol of slavery and racism.
"It's the obvious question, it seems to me. Not only are we worried about the flags and statues and all that, but what the hell are kids learning?" said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning advocacy organization that has been critical of the state's academic standards in social studies.
In 2010, members of the state board of education revised the state's social studies standards to adjust for what they called a liberal slant. Former Secretary of Education Rod Paige was one of a group of critics who disagreed with the Texas board's minimization of difficult parts of the country's past. In Paige's opinion, "We may not like our history, but its history." States' rights was an issue, but the right Southern states were seeking to protect was the right to buy and sell people.
Jeremy A. Stern, a historian who reviewed state standards for the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2011, gives the social studies standards in South Carolina an "A" for honestly addressing slavery's role in the Civil War while acknowledging that states' rights was also an important issue.
Texas social studies standards are now based on conservatives' focus on the biblical foundation of the US legal system and a whitewashed picture of race, reports The Washington Post. There is the possibility that since Texas is the second-largest state in the nation, books designed for its students could become available to schools in other states as well.
The Post adds that it would be a good thing if textbook publishers would put profit aside in lieu of preserving academic integrity and that schools should purchase books that meet higher standards of honesty. Texas is not alone in its lowering of history standards; other states have confusing or obtuse state guidelines. Texas, however, according to the editorial staff, is unique in the audaciously political manner its board members devised its curriculum.
Sputnik International News quoted Dan Quinn, who said:
"A lot of white southerners have grown up believing that the Confederacy's struggle was somehow a noble cause rather than a war in the defense of a horrific institution that enslaved millions of human beings."