On Friday, the Texas Board of Education voted to change the learning standards for its students regarding the causes of the Civil War. Moving away from the previous standard, in which students were taught that sectionalism, state’s rights, and slavery — in that order — were the three main causes of the war, students will now learn that slavery played a “central role” in the war, according to NPR.
“What the use of ‘states’ rights’ is doing is essentially blanketing, or skirting, the real foundational issue, which is slavery,” said board member Marisa Perez-Diaz.
The Board apparently overcame a schism between its elected Democrats and Republican members to reach a compromise solution. Back in September, the board’s Democrats proposed listing slavery as the singular cause of the Civil War but were met with some resistance by Board Republicans who wanted to keep the other causes.
“Each state had differences and made individual decisions as to whether or not to join into the conflict, correct? I mean, that’s the definition of states’ rights,” said Republican board member David Bradley of Beaumont.
The Texas Board of Education, which is controlled by a Republican majority, ultimately compromised on the language of “the central role of the expansion of slavery in causing sectionalism, disagreements over states’ rights and the Civil War.”
The Board’s only African-American member, Lawrence Allen, Jr., helped craft the new language of the curriculum standards, which he believes creates a tighter link between slavery and the Civil War.
“I don’t think we really have that as a consensus in our state,” he said. “And so if we can’t drive it to a consensus in our state, we need to let our students look at it from all points of view.”
In another surprising reversal, the Board also elected to return Hillary Clinton and Hellen Keller to the curriculum after experiencing a wave of criticism followed the September announcement, previously reported by NPR. In an attempt to “streamline” the curriculum, the Board had elected to remove Clinton and Keller — who was a prominent social activist — as well as the proposed Civil War causes, in favor of keeping evangelist Billy Graham and references to Moses’ influence on America’s founding documents. The controversy not only cast a negative light on Texas education, but raised troubling questions about how history is taught across the country.
SBOE needs to reject these changes. If Helen Keller was an important historical figure when I was in school (and she was), then she still is today. @HillaryClinton is the 1st and only woman to be the presidential nominee of a major party in U.S. history. Enough said. #txlege https://t.co/0aKIHV1Iq8
— Chris Turner (@ChrisGTurner) September 14, 2018
One controversial determination that was not reversed was the curriculum’s listing of the singular cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the rejection of the existence of the state of Israel by the Arab league and a majority of Arab nations.” Critics suggest that this is a simplistic view that promotes only one viewpoint, causes students to accept a view rather than consider an issue, and promotes anti-Muslim bias.
About 10% of American public high school students reside in Texas.