AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Education Agency is working to determine how to make changes to match the new law on teaching “critical race theory.” Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 3 into law adding provisions to the state’s Education Code and changing how certain topics such as race are explored and discussed in the classroom.
However, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Tejas Foco Committee on Mexican American Studies is concerned about what and whose history gets left out of the curriculum. They say if certain historical figures are eliminated students will miss out.
Members of the group gathered outside the William B. Travis Building Wednesday morning to rally before the TEA’s meeting, holding a press conference in response to the social studies Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test or TEKS revision.
Instead, they are calling on the TEA to include the “learning outcomes” laid out in Section 9 of Senate Bill 3 which includes the history of Native Americans, the contributions of Frederick Douglass, the political organizations that promoted the Chicano movement, the impact of the women’s suffrage and equal rights movements, the life and work of Dolores Huerta, Dr. Hector P. Garcia and more. As well as the specific documents including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech. Those are just some of the educational topics listed.
Eliza Epstein, mother of two, is with the Ethnic Studies Network of Texas. She’s calling for transparency as the board revises the state’s social studies standards. She wants historic representation of all cultures in Texas classrooms.
“I’m a white mom, I have a white husband and I know the curriculum in this country is incredibly whitewashed,” Epstein said.
The group wants to see those educational topics and more — asking for the curriculum to implement additional content featuring Native American, Black, Latino and Asian American communities.
“We did not have this history growing up as children. I did not learn a lot of this stuff until I was in college and I always think where would I be now if I had gotten this information in school,” said Christopher Carmona, Chair of the NACCS Tejas Foco Committee on Implementing Mexican American Studies in Pre-K-12 Education. “For me, personally, it is a fight that is worth fighting. Not for me in particular, but for the next generations to come.”
In 2010, the SBOE amended the social studies TEKS and later amended the curriculum again to “streamline the social studies TEKS” in 2018. Most recently, the board began discussing the review of the social studies TEKS last summer and “designated content advisors for the social studies TEKS review” in August 2021.
Those content advisors met to discuss “consensus recommendations” starting in December 2021. Around the same time, the new law went into effect. Since January, according to the TEA, workgroups have been meeting to “develop recommendations” for the social studies TEKS.
During Wednesday morning’s rally, attendees discussed “the anti-censorship bills and the importance of not censoring learning.” They believe the changes could have an impact on the teacher shortage the state is facing. Carmona said in part “having these types of bills and putting this kind of pressure on teachers is having a chilling effect, leading to teachers not wanting to teach.”
Timeline of revisions to social studies standards
The TEA told KXAN that Wednesday was the first reading for one new social studies course, Personal Financial Literacy and Economics, which was required by SB 1063 to be in place for the 2022-23 school year.
An agency spokesperson says the board is expected to take final action on this proposed new course at the June meeting. The board is expected to adopt revised social studies standards in November 2022 for implementation in the 2025-26 school year. The agency says the standards would be in effect for several years. The board has tasked work groups with ensuring they address the requirements of SB 3 in their recommendations for revisions to the social studies standards.
Jonathan Butcher, Will Skillman Fellow in Education of The Heritage Center, emphasized the importance of community input in the board’s process.
“These are very important processes and not because history changes, but because we need to have a concerted effort to make sure that what is taught about our founding documents, about the important things that have been written in the past, are portrayed in an accurate way and delivered in a way that students will be able to access and understand,” Butcher explained.
He said it’s important to protect the fundamental federal law, as well as any state laws that are preventing individuals from “having to affirm some idea that violates the Civil Rights Act.”
“We want to protect students from being told that the American Dream doesn’t belong to them. This should be something that all students should be taught to achieve,” Butcher said. “So that’s why the topics of victimhood and oppression are ones that we should be very cautious about how these are used in the classroom, in such a way that students are not like, well, I’m automatically in a category, how can I change my life outcome? They need to understand that their agency, their personal behaviors are what determines their future.”