By GARY SCHARRER AUSTIN BUREAU
Aug. 17, 2009, 6:52AM
AUSTIN — Scratch Henry Cisneros, but add Dolores Huerta, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Sandra Cisneros, Henry B. Gonzalez and Irma Rangel to the list of important Hispanic figures that Texas school children might be discussing in the future.
State education leaders are still in the early stages of writing new curriculum standards for social studies that will shape future history and geography books.
And by the time those new textbooks arrive in fall 2013, a majority of the children attending Texas public schools will be Hispanic.
A debate on which — and how many— Hispanic historical figures should be included is coming to the 15-member State Board of Education, which expects to take a final vote next spring.
It's already under way among the review panels the board appointed, who will huddle with the board this fall.
The board is expected to discuss the social studies issue with experts it appointed to develop new standards at the Sept. 16-17 meeting.
Earlier this summer, board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, stressed the importance of describing the contributions of minority groups in school history books.
The first draft of the new social studies curriculum standards includes notable 20th-century community leaders, politicians and artists. Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, would join Helen Keller and Clara Barton to show third grade students examples of good citizenship.
Participant in democracy
The late Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio, a member of the U.S. House for 38 years, could end up in fourth grade history books as an example “of individuals who modeled active participation in the democratic process.”
And second grade students would learn about Irma Rangel, who in 1976 became the first Hispanic woman elected to the Texas Legislature and chaired the House Higher Education Committee when the current textbooks were written a decade ago. She died in 2003.
Hispanic children “want to see some brown faces and in Texas there are a lot of people with Hispanic surnames who are a part of Texas history. So that's easy to come by,” said State Board of Education member Patricia Hardy, R-Fort Worth, who has 30 years' experience as a world history and geography teacher and five years experience as director of the social studies curriculum for the Weatherford Independent School District.
“But you cannot distort Texas history. You cannot give people an elevated place in history when their place was not elevated,” she added.
Texas history must be taught in a way that incorporates the distinctive features of the community where the students live, said Texas' first state historian, Jesus F. de la Teja.
One of six board-appointed “expert reviewers” who will help recommend the new standards, he said the ultimate goal of teaching history is to make students feel they are part of the story.
“And you cannot make them feel a part of the story if the story you are telling is irrelevant to their lives,” said de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University.
David Barton, another “expert reviewer,” would emphasize older history.
“There are so many good guys, why just stay on the 20th century?” asked Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, an organization that emphasizes America's moral, religious, and constitutional foundation while promoting its forgotten history and heroes.
But some team members worry that traditional American values and historical perspective will be de-emphasized to promote multiculturalism.
“I argued in favor of only adding or maintaining people on the (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) lists that merited being there on the basis of their historical accomplishments and not simply due to their gender or ethnicity,” said Peter Morrison, a real estate developer and member of the Lumberton ISD school board and a member of the Grade 5 review panel.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “I felt that I was the only one in the group using that metric.”