April 12, 2010

To the Texas State Board of Education:

Public schools must provide students with a sound elementary and high school education that prepares them to succeed in college and their future careers. Such a sound education must be fair, accurate and balanced and it must be based on rigorous, mainstream scholarship, not on ideological agendas.

Those of us who teach and conduct research in colleges and universities have grown concerned, however, that social studies curriculum standards in Texas do not meet student needs. We also believe that the Texas State Board of Education has been derelict in its duty to revise the public school curriculum. In short, recent proposals by Board members have undermined the study of the social sciences in our public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of American society.

Some of the problematic revisions that they have proposed include:

  • Weakening the study of constitutional protections for religious liberty that keep government out of matters of faith;
  • Minimizing the struggle of women and ethnic minorities for equal and civil rights;
  • Striking Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political changes since the 1700s; and
  • Excluding an important historical figure from Latin America because some board members did not recognize him

The integrity of the curriculum revision process has been compromised and we propose that the Board restore the trust of the public and the academic community by proceeding as follows:

  • Delay the final adoption of social studies curriculum standards;
  • Allow curriculum teams and a new panel of qualified, credentialed content experts from the state’s colleges and universities to review changes that the Board has made and prepare a new draft of the standards that is fair, accurate and balanced;
  • Permit the public to review and comment on the new draft of the standards before final adoption; and
  • Make final changes to the draft of the standards only after public consultation with classroom teachers and scholars who are experts in the appropriate fields of study.

Like all members of the Texas State Board of Education, we have a vested interest in giving our schoolchildren the tools that they need to succeed in college and their future careers. For genuine college and work readiness to occur the Board must adhere to a more transparent, fair, and inclusive process of curriculum revisions, and it must make full and effective use of the faculty and researchers from our colleges and universities in Texas who can offer expert assistance and guidance.

Organizing Committee

Emilio Zamora (co-chair), University of Texas at Austin

Jeffrey P. Shepherd, University of Texas at El Paso

Anne M. Martínez, University of Texas at Austin

Laurie B. Green, University of Texas at Austin

Keith A. Erekson (co-chair), University of Texas at El Paso

Ernesto Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso

Sam Brunk, University of Texas at El Paso

For information about this initiative contact Emilio Zamora; for questions or comments about this site contact Keith Erekson.