The Texas State Board of Education approved new public school curriculum standards Friday for social studies courses that put more emphasis on the role of Christianity in society, in government, and in history.
In a 9-5 partisan vote, the board voted to approve the social studies curriculum standards that will serve as the framework in Texas classrooms for the next ten years.
The vote, which comes after 18 months of work, was directly preceded by an 8-6 vote against postponing the decision until July.
Opponents of the proposed new textbook guidelines say the revision is a vehicle to impose and promote political and religious ideology upon millions of public school students.
As Texas is the second-largest textbook market in the country, the new curriculum is expected to influence publishers and thus the textbooks used in classrooms nationwide.
“The right-wing fundamentalist bloc on the Texas State Board of Education is bound and determined to rewrite American history,” commented Americans United for Separation of Church and State on Friday.
There is a “litany of problems with this curriculum,” added Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which has led efforts against the new curriculum.
“All of these issues,” she added, “as serious as they are, are really symptoms of the larger problem - allowing politicians with personal agendas to write our children’s curriculum, rather than teachers and scholars.”
Supporters of the new curriculum, however, say it is those opposed to Christianity who have been trying to rewrite the history books.
“[The fringe left] want unlimited control over what students learn, to radically change the worldview of our next generation by distorting history,” claimed faith-based legal group Liberty Institute prior to Friday’s vote.
“Liberal fringe efforts to complicate, obfuscate, and denigrate our heritage and history must be rejected,” added Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs for the organization.
Though supporters of the new curriculum hailed Friday’s vote, the Texas Freedom Network told its constituents that the vote “is not the end of this fight. It’s the beginning.”
“For 15 years, all of us at TFN have been committed to safeguarding our children’s education from political ideology. And we’re not about to let up now,” the organization reported.
“Our ultimate goal is nothing less than fundamental change at the State Board of Education,” it added.
Most experts, however, say it is unlikely that the board will revisit the social studies curriculum - unless Democrat Bill White wins the governor’s race this fall. If that happened, White would appoint the education board chairman, who controls the panel’s agenda and could put the issue back before the board next year.
But further delays would likely be opposed as the new standards are scheduled to be phased in to classroom instruction in the 2011-12 school year.
Some 4.8 million K-12 students will be directly affected by the new standards.