By Zahira Torres / Austin Bureau
Posted: 12/21/2009 02:42:46 PM MST
Plans to revise the social studies curriculum in Texas leave many concerned that iconic historic figures may be left out of textbooks
AUSTIN -- Can a state overemphasize its own history?
UCLA professor Gary Nash believes Texas is doing just that and depriving public school students of lessons in world history.
The founder and director of the National Center for History in Schools, Nash said the State Board of Education should seek to level the playing field as it continued to revise its social studies curriculum.
Texas students "are going to know a great deal about their own state and it is a fine state, but they are going to know very little about the world and they are going to leave high school with a very myopic view of the history of humankind," Nash said in an interview.
The state offers two years of Texas history, one year of world history and a yearlong look at contemporary world culture. In contrast, California teaches three years of world history and one year of state history.
The result of the Texas method, according to Nash, is that many key figures are left out. They include Nicolaus Copernicus, Marie Curie and Pythagoras of Samos.
"This is a very inward- looking social studies curriculum -- a lot of gazing at the Texas navel and a very spare looking outward at the world," Nash said.
Nash's assessment adds another criticism to the state's social studies curriculum, which is being revised by the State Board of Education.
Some civil-rights groups, educators and lawmakers have argued for months that the curriculum did not do enough to recognize the key roles of Hispanics, women, Native Americans and African-Americans. Other groups say that minorities and women should be included only when relevant.
During the past few months, various committees appointed by the board have worked to revise curriculum standards for about 4.7 million Texas schoolchildren.
The board will have its first public hearing and a preliminary vote on the curriculum standards in January. New social studies standards for the next de cade will be adopted in March.
Julio Noboa, a professor of education at the University of Texas at El Paso, was on one of the committees that crafted the proposed curriculum. In September, Noboa joined several El Pasoans who called for a greater presence of minorities in the teachings.
He and his wife are now gathering a group of educators and students willing to attend next month's meeting to push for those inclusions.
Noboa agrees with Nash about the need to improve the study of world history. He said the proposed curriculum has come a long way from where it was 10 years ago, but he thinks more can be done.
"The question is to what extent is it an improvement," Noboa said. "How much more can it be improved and to what extent is the State Board of Education going to accept the suggestions we are proposing."
One of the most disputed parts of the state's proposed social studies curriculum is a list that details historic figures under two categories -- required to be taught and examples of what may be taught.
Board members in the past five months have heard from dozens of people concerned that the roles of Hispanics, African-Americans, women and Native Americans have been glossed over.
"I can see that there was an attempt to paint on a broader canvas, but it has the smell of committee," Nash said. "It has the smell of a county fair horse trade, where I will give you a figure that you want and you give me one that I want."
The issue also has brought out Jewish-American groups that would like to see their own figures listed, and members of the Sikh religion, who want to be included in textbooks as the world's fifth-largest religion.
Hispanics have been the most-involved and loudest group.
Schools are required to teach more than 160 historic figures in the proposed curriculum. Only 14 Hispanic figures, some of whom were Spanish settlers, are required to be taught under an October proposal submitted by various committees appointed by the board.
Educators are also required to teach students about their representatives in the Texas Legislature, some of whom could be Hispanic.
More Hispanic names are offered as suggestions of what may be taught, but State Board of Education member Mary Helen Ber langa worries that this could exclude them from history books.
Berlanga and Rene Nuñez, El Paso's representative on the board, have sought the inclusion of more Hispanics in the curriculum. Some of Berlanga's suggestions were placed in the latest list of proposed names.
"It's not like we are making up names," she said. "These people had an impact on history."
Berlanga said she has been pushing for greater representation of Hispanics in Texas school textbooks for more than 20 years.
"This time I want more than a baby step," she said. "I told them, 'If you get it right, I will be able to retire when my term is up.' "
Berlanga and Nuñez have since been joined by El Pasoans dissatisfied with the number of Hispanics on the list. Among the dissatisfied is state Rep. Norma Chá vez, D-El Paso.
She told members of the board in November that she and other lawmakers in the Mexican American Legislative Caucus expected the inclusion of more Hispanics, such as Irma Ran gel, the first Latina elected to the Texas Legislature, and Henry B. Gonzalez, the first Latino from Texas elected to Congress.
Both are listed as examples of those who may be taught. Berlanga and Chá vez said they planned to submit lists of names for the board to consider at its next meeting.
Gail Lowe, chairwoman of the State Board of Education, said she expected about 100 people to speak about the issue at the January meeting.
Lowe said no drastic changes would be made to the curriculum. This means chances are slim that world history would be taught at more than one grade level.
She did, however, predict that there would be several additions to the list of required historic figures.
Lowe also said some of the names will be moved from the "examples" category to the "required" category to increase the number of minorities.
"We are moving closer and closer toward having standards that include the individuals that all students should know about and learn about before they graduate," Lowe said.
Board member Patricia Hardy said she would support shifting more minorities to the required category.
"The fact is that Hispanics were discriminated against," Hardy said. "They had to work twice as hard to get on the page as anyone else. Why not use that as a lesson?"
Hardy also said she still had concerns about the proposed figures taught through world history and from U.S. history after 1877.
But the former world history teacher disagrees with Nash. She said students learn enough about the world through a year of contemporary world culture in sixth grade and world geography in high school.
Hardy said she would attempt to reinstate a number of historic figures who were deleted from the world history category. They include Simon Bolivar, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Copernicus.
"You don't finish a history class without knowing who in the Sam Hill those people are," she said.
Zahira Torres may be reached at email@example.com; 512-469-6606.
Whom kids should learn about
Required: Stephen F. Austin, George Washington.
Examples of what may be taught: None.
Required: Sam Houston, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, George Washington.
Examples of what may be taught: Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Francis Scott Key, Benjamin Franklin, Garrett Morgan, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Examples of what may be taught: Abigail Adams, George Washington Carver, Amelia Earhart, Robert Fulton, Thurgood Marshall, Irma Rangel, Theodore Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, women pilots of World War II.
Required: Benjamin Banneker, Clara Barton, Todd Beamer, Christopher Columbus, the founding fathers, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Hector P. Garcia, Dolores Huerta, Helen Keller, Pierre-Charles L'Enfant, Maria Mitchell, Juan De Oñate, Jonas Salk, Harriet Tubman.
Examples of what may be taught: Wallace Amos, Mary Kay Ash, Carmen Lomas Garza, Bill Gates, Bill Martin Jr., Cyrus McCormick, Kadir Nelson, Tomie de Paola, Louis Pasteur, Phillis Wheatley, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Required: Stephen F. Austin, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Francisco Coronado, Charles Goodnight, sitting governor of Texas, Lizzie Johnson, hometown mayor, local members of the Legislature, hometown U.S. representatives, Anson Jones, Sam Houston, Richard King, Mirabeau Lamar, René Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle, Martín de León, José Antonio Navarro, Texans as president of United States, U.S. senators.
Examples of what may be taught: Gail Borden, James Bowie, George Childress, Bessie Coleman, David Crockett, Michael DeBakey, Susanna Dickinson, Clara Driscoll, José de Escandón, Joseph Glidden, Henry B. González, Pattillo Higgins, Sam Houston, Millie Hughes-Fulford, Scott Joplin, Barbara Jordan, Stanley Marcus, Audie Murphy, Sam Rayburn, Ann Richards, Cleto Rodríguez, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Juan N. Seguín, John Tower, William B. Travis, Adina de Zavala, Lorenzo de Zavala.
Required: John Adams, Samuel Adams, Neil Armstrong, Alexander Graham Bell, William Bradford, George Washington Carver, William Clark, John Deere, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Nathan Hale, Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Jefferson, Merriwether Lewis, James Madison, George Mason, William Penn, Roger Sherman, John Smith, George Washington, Eli Whitney, Roger Williams, Wright brothers.
Examples of what may be taught: Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, César Chávez, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Colin Powell, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan.
No historic figures listed.
Introduction: Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Barbara Jordan, Mary Maverick, Elizabeth Ney, William B. Travis, Lorenzo de Zavala.
Required: Moses Austin, Stephen F. Austin, George Childress, Green DeWitt, James Fannin, James Farmer, Dr. Hector P. García, Oveta Culp Hobby, James Hogg, Sam Houston, Lyndon B. Johnson, Anson Jones, Mirabeau B. Lamar, Martín de León, Jane McCallum, Quanah Parker, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Erasmo Seguín, Juan Seguín, William B. Travis, Lulu Bell White, Lorenzo de Zavala.
Examples of what may be taught: James A. Baker III, Roy Bedichek, Chief Bowles, Benjy Brooks, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Sandra Cisneros, Walter Cunningham, Michael DeBakey, Michael Dell, J. Frank Dobie, José de Escandón, Henry B. Gonzalez, William Goyens, Jack Coffee Hayes, Francisco Hidalgo, Scott Joplin, Barbara Jordan, Howard Hughes Sr., Kay Bailey Hutchison, Antonio Margil de Jesús, Fray Damián Massanet, Mary Maverick, José Antonio Navarro, Elizabet Ney, Amado Peña Jr., Alonso Alvarez de Piñeda, Sam Rayburn, Walter Prescott Webb.
Introduction: John and Abigail Adams.
Required: Abigail Adams, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Jefferson Davis, founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, Bernardo de Galvez, Ulysses S. Grant, King George III, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Marquis de Lafayette, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, George Mason, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Daniel Webster.
Examples of what may be taught: Susan B. Anthony, John James Audubon, Frederick Douglass, John Paul Jones, Abraham Lincoln, John Marshall, James Monroe, William Penn, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry David Thor eau, George Washington.
No figures listed.
Required: Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hammurabi, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Jefferson, Emperor Justinian I, John Locke, Karl Marx, Baron de Montesquieu, Benito Mussolini, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Joseph Stalin, Hideki Tojo, Voltaire (Fran?ois Marie Arouet), Lech Walesa, Woodrow Wilson, Mao Zedong.
Examples of what may be taught: Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Oscar Romero.
Required: Jane Addams, Omar Bradley, César Chávez, William Jefferson Clinton, Benjamin O. Davis, Dwight Eisenhower, Betty Friedan, Oveta Culp Hobby, Herbert Hoover, Dolores Huerta, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall, Joseph McCarthy, Chester Nimitz, Richard M. Nixon, George Patton, John J. Pershing, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Wallace, Frances Willard, Woodrow Wilson, Oprah Winfrey.
Examples of what may be taught: Susan B. Anthony, Mary Kay Ash, William Jennings Bryan, Andrew Carnegie, Hillary Clinton, Clarence Darrow, Samuel Dole, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry Ford, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Marcus Garvey, Bill Gates, Barry Goldwater, Billy Graham, Charles A. Lindbergh, Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Thurgood Marshall, Ralph Nader, H. Ross Perot, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Phyllis Schlafly, Upton Sinclair, Sam Walton, Ida B. Wells.
Introduction: John Locke.
Required: John Adams, William Blackstone, founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Locke, James Madison, John Marshall, George Mason, Baron Charles de Montesquieu, Moses, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Roger Sherman, George Washington, James Wilson.
Examples of what may be taught: No figures listed.
Required: John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Adam Smith.
Examples of what may be taught: No figures listed.
Required: Erik Erickson, Jean Piaget
Examples of what may be taught: No figures listed.
Required: Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer, Max Weber.
Examples of what may be taught: Jane Addams, W.E.B. DuBois, Harriet Martineau, Robert E. Park, Julian Samra, Booker T. Washington.