SB 1451 – Correcting Texas “revisionist history”

12 05 2010
Concerns that “extremist” curriculum decisions being made in Texas don’t one day creep into California textbooks has prompted legislation that would require additional content screening to filter out the changes.
SB 1451, by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, comes in response to a decision by the Texas Board of Education to include as part of a social studies/history curriculum framework update some eye-catching edits including:

  • Highlighting the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate State of America.
  • Dropping Thomas Jefferson from a list of great political thinkers.
  • Reducing information about the impact of Latinos in U.S. history.
  • Replacing hip-hop music with country-western as an important cultural influence.
  • And, replacing “capitalism” with “free market” and the term “democratic” (as in a form of government) with “constitutional republic.”
Yee said in an interview last week that he’s worried some or all of what he called “revisionist history” would make its way into California textbooks because Texas is reviewing its curriculum framework ahead of California and the publishing industry might make it expensive not to follow along.

That is, textbook publishers will use the curriculum adopted in Texas – the nation’s second largest textbook market next to California – to write the textbooks that California might have to adopt because they will be the most current.

It seems that what’s going on in Texas was that they were trying to use politics and political philosophy to change the way in which textbooks would be written,” Yee said in an interview with Cabinet Report.
“I think that clearly one needs to get into exactly why this is so critical,” Yee said. “So what if Texas has a framework that we don’t like, how is that going to influence us?”

His bill would require the California State Board of Education, upon next review of the history/social science framework, to notify the legislature if it finds that any of the new content adopted in Texas has been included in the curriculum.

California’s history/social science framework was due to be reviewed and adopted this year but suspended until the 2013-14 school year as a result of budgetary concerns and the passage of Assembly Bill X4 2 last year.

“What this bill will do is require the [California] State Board of Education to look at the changes that the Texas Board of Education is suggesting in their framework and evaluate that against the appropriateness to the California standards,” Yee said. The state board would then be required to report to the legislature its findings.

The Texas Board of Education is now taking comments on the framework revisions and is scheduled to take a final vote in May. The elected board is currently made up of a Republican majority of 10-5.

Yee’s bill passed the Senate Education Committee and now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

By Tom Chorneau and Mary Gardner
School Innovations & Advocacy, Inc.
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