The Texas State Board of Education must implement an anti-racist history curriculum
The Texas State Board of Education must implement an anti-racist history curriculum
As concerned current and former students, parents, and community members, we urge board members to implement an anti-racist curriculum for American history courses in Texas schools. The historic and recent tragedies afflicting the Black community have made it painfully obvious that our country continues to oppress its Black citizens and perpetuate racial disparities. By disregarding large portions of Black history, we have failed to properly equip our youth with the knowledge and resources needed to combat individual and systemic racism in our society today. In order for our country to improve and to be a safe, equitable place for all citizens, we have to acknowledge our deeply anti-Black, racist past as well as the oppression that continues today —this begins in the classroom. The creation of a Black American history high school course is a step in the right direction, but we can do more. The following demands should be implemented in the core curriculum for American history classes because they meet the minimum requirements of what any informed citizen should know about our nation’s history. Black history is American history.
The current TEKS (Texas Education Knowledge and Skills) standards ignore our nation’s racist history as well as the present-day consequences of a past steeped in racial violence, slavery, and Jim Crow. For example, Texan students are not taught about the 1921 race massacre that took place in Tulsa, OK, which remains the single-bloodiest incidence of racial violence perpetrated against Black Americans after the Civil War, with more than 300 Black Americans slaughtered in their neighborhood; nor are they taught about the full depth and breadth of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, which was as diverse in its leadership, goals, and philosophies as the American Revolution (the Civil Rights Movement did not start or end with MLK and Rosa Parks alone). Additionally, by refusing to acknowledge our long history and existing prevalence of redlining, racially motivated gerrymandering, and race-based voter suppression, we are failing to teach our high school students the long-lasting consequences of our history and how these continue to pose a threat to our society today. The TEKS’ vague language leaves too much room for individual teachers to teach to their personal biases. As an example, TEKS High School “United States History Studies Since 1877” Standard 9E asks teachers to “compare and contrast the approach taken by the Black Panthers with the non-violent approach of Martin Luther King Jr.”, allowing teachers the freedom to emphasize one approach as more socially acceptable or effective as opposed to two coinciding and complementary efforts at securing civil rights for Black Americans.
The Texas Freedom Network’s 2018 Report details how the TEKS standards are biased and push a “politicized distortion of the history” of slavery and the civil rights movement. For example, portraying Confederate leaders, such as General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, as effective political leaders downplays their treason and their role in upholding a system of white supremacy. When scholars and educators proposed revisions to the TEKS standards in 2010, their suggestions were disregarded due to the personal religious and political beliefs of SBOE members. The report concluded that “Texas students leave their classrooms without a sound understanding of the origins of important issues that, sadly, continue to divide our nation...That makes resolving serious problems, particularly on matters regarding race and discrimination, more difficult today” (Page 8).
As the State Board of Education —specifically, as members of the committee on instruction— you are in charge of setting the curriculum standards for students all across Texas, which influence textbooks that are circulated around the nation. You have a moral imperative to educate our youth on the entirety of our country’s history, in the hopes that if our students learn from the mistakes, challenges, and triumphs of our past, they will be inspired to set a brighter path for their future.
Our demands below detail ways in which the Texas curriculum for American history courses can enrich the current curriculum to equip students with a more in-depth and thorough understanding of Black History.
We demand that the history curriculum be expanded to:
- Adjust the current curriculum to remove sympathetic and biased views of Confederate leaders and the Confederacy in general (refer back to TFN’s 2018 report), given that they committed treason against the United States in order to perpetuate the institution of slavery. (TEKS Grade 8 U.S. History Standard 8A)
- Discuss Juneteenth’s cultural and political significance and analyze Texas’s role in the delayed end of slavery
- Describe the influence of the Daughters of Confederacy and their successful efforts to erect monuments of Confederate generals in the 1900s and ban textbooks that were deemed “unjust to the South”
- Study the local history of slavery and Jim Crow in students’ communities, as documented by many regional heritage societies, and the effects that continue to threaten the safety and well-being of Black Texans today. Discuss the legacies of Sundown towns and their traumatic impact on Black communities.
- Explore the intersectionality in movements such as the women’s rights movement by studying historical figures such as Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Dubois. Analyze how race, gender, and class were interconnected in the Civil Rights Movement.
- Acknowledge the widespread lynching of Blacks such as Emmett Till
- Describe the role of Black women activists, such as Ella Baker, Angela Davis, and Septima Clark, who were essential in the fight towards a more equitable, educated, and inclusive society.
- Ella Baker was a grassroots leader most notably involved with the NAACP and the SNCC. She promoted radical democracy and championed women’s rights both in the movement and generally.
- Angela Davis was a leader in the Black Panther organization and an advocate for prison reform.
- Septima Clark was an educator, a civil rights activist, and an advocate for citizenship schools that helped enfranchise Black people in America.
- Analyze the politicization of and opposition to the Civil Rights movement. Recognize the role conservative members of Congress played in the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement and the preservation of segregation. (TEKS High School “United States History Studies Since 1877” Standard 9G; TEKS High School “United States History Studies Since 1877” Standard 9H)
- Understand the effects of the Black Power movement on the Civil Rights Movement and the present-day Black Lives Matter movement
- Explain the Black Panthers’ role in the Black Power Movement
Analyze their history, their contributions to local communities, the FBI’s documented role in their demise, and media narratives that lacked context and painted the Black Power movement as unacceptable and violent.
- Describe the works of important leaders of the Black Power movement such as Stokley Carmichael, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, Huey Newton, Assata Shaukur
- Analyze Malcolm X’s influence on the foundation of the Black Power movement
- Discuss the causes and effects of historical events and themes such as the Tulsa Massacre, The Tuskegee Syphilis Trials, and The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing
- Analyze the effects of gerrymandering and redlining on access to voting, housing, and well-funded social services and their implications on present-day segregation (TEKS High School “United States History Studies Since 1877” Standard 9)
- Study the anthropological origins of colorism and how colorism developed as a result of racist ideologies that glorified proximity to whiteness. Analyze the present-day effects of such ideologies and the prevalence of colorism in our society.
- Analyze and understand mass incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex, mentioned in depth in Ava DuVerney’s documentary, 13th. (TEKS High School “United States History Studies Since 1877” Standard 11B)
To build upon these curriculum changes, the State of Board must create and empower an ‘Inclusive History Education Committee’ to regularly review and update history courses curriculums to incorporate historical perspectives, events, and movements from American communities that are currently under-represented or neglected in history classes (e.g. Indigenous history, Mexican History, Asian-American history, etc.).
In addition to creating a committee that focuses on creating more inclusive classrooms, the STAAR test must be rethought. Many studies have found that districts with a majority of low-income students are less likely than those in affluent districts to obtain a passing score on standardized tests. Our education system must be able to serve all communities and districts, regardless of socioeconomic status or funding levels. The STAAR test is not accurately assessing the knowledge of students. Instead, it simply signals which students and districts have the resources needed to properly prepare and ace the exam.
The board is not scheduled to review the social studies curriculum until 2023; this cannot wait. This is a human rights issue that demands your immediate and quick action.
Here are some supplemental resources to accompany the textbooks given to students.
To learn more about how the Texas State Board pushes their agenda into classrooms, watch this documentary.