AUSTIN, Texas – AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A push by conservatives to put their ideological stamp on how a host of political events and figures will be taught to school children in Texas and beyond for the next decade was reaching its final showdown Friday.
The State Board of Education was set to vote on a social studies and history curriculum that will be used to teach some 4.8 million Texas students for the next 10 years. The partisan board has amended or watered down the teaching of the civil rights movement, slavery, America's relationship with the U.N. and hundreds of other items.
The standards also will be used by textbook publishers who often develop materials for other states based on those approved in Texas, although teachers in the Lone Star state have latitude in deciding which material to teach.
That wide reach brought national attention to the months of debate leading up to this week's meeting, which featured testimony from educators, civil rights leaders and a former U.S. education secretary. Many argued that the proposal amounted to a move by conservatives to promote their political ideology and, pointing to the board's lack of historical knowledge, urged board members to delay their vote. The attention was so intense that it contributed to the defeat of one of the most conservative members, Chairman Don McLeroy, in the March state Republican primary.
As the debate continued Friday, conservatives rejected language to modernize the classification of historic periods to B.C.E. and C.E. from the traditional B.C. and A.D.
Conservatives say the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed to the left after years of Democrats controlling the board.
Democrats and a moderate Republican accused conservatives on the board of trying to stir up a needless controversy Thursday by using the president's full name, Barack Hussein Obama, saying his middle name was loaded with negative connotation.
Critics had complained that Obama's full name was conspicuously absent in a high school history course that referred only to the "the election of the first black president."
When a Democrat tried to fix the omission, Republican David Bradley said "I think we give him the full honor and privilege of his full name."
Obama's name caused him trouble during the 2008 presidential campaign, when some critics tried to use it to cast doubt on his American origin and faith.
Discussions over his name snarled the board's progress on amendments late Thursday evening.
"The intent behind what you're doing, I think is pretty obvious," said Republican Bob Craig, urging Bradley to withdraw the suggestion.
"Please Mr. Bradley, don't use the middle name," said Democrat Lawrence Allen. "Yes, it's his birth name, but you know the significance it will play in the press. We don't have to deal with it."
Bradley relented and withdrew the motion.
Though they lost on the president's name, conservatives scored a string of victories late Thursday, including a requirement that public school students in Texas evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.
McLeroy, one of the board's most outspoken conservatives, offered the amendment requiring students to evaluate efforts by global organizations including the U.N. to undermine U.S. sovereignty, saying they threatened individual liberty and freedom.
During the monthslong process, conservatives also have successfully strengthened the requirements on teaching the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers and attempted to water down rationale for the separation of church and state. If adopted, the standards will refer to the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic," and students will be required to study the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.
In previous discussions, the board has added language heralding "American exceptionalism" and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best without excessive government intervention. It also required students learn to about the Second Amendment right to bear arms specifically, in addition to the Bill of Rights. And they removed a suggestion that students learn about hip-hop as an example of a significant social movement.
They also agreed to delete a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."
Educators have blasted the proposed curriculum for politicizing education. Teachers also have said the document is too long and will force students to memorize lists of names rather than thinking critically.