May 20, 2010
Cynthia Leonor Garza
Statement by Randi Weingarten, President,
American Federation of Teachers,
On Texas Social Studies Textbook Controversy
WASHINGTON—The Texas State Board of Education’s highly politicized rewrite of its social studies curriculum is profoundly disappointing. The public schools are maintained as a public trust. They were created not only to help prepare students to pursue the American dream, but also to help prepare the future citizens who will shape, defend, and protect our nation’s democratic heritage. It is a role that was first envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, who argued persuasively that each of us should be equipped to make our own decisions on what would “secure or endanger” our freedom.
It is, thus, doubly troubling to find that the Texas State Board of Education has chosen to write Jefferson out of our nation’s history. How can we expect our students to defend the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence without also learning about the man who wrote it and why? Can we expect them to fully comprehend the horrors of slavery and the terrible Civil War that arose from it while euphemistically calling the Atlantic slave trade “the Atlantic triangular trade”?
For teachers to feed students personal ideology, indoctrination or propaganda masking as history is to violate the principles of a profession dedicated to opening inquiring minds and fostering the critical thinking good citizens need to function in our democracy.
This reprehensible substituting of personal ideology for truth and fact will take the children of Texas back in time. It will harm our nation's efforts to give them a world-class education. Worse, this skewed view of history will be reflected in textbooks, curriculum and achievement tests used in Texas—and even spread nationwide if the textbooks are purchased by other states. Ironically, this outrageous misstep could come at the precise time when Texas should be joining virtually every other state in adopting common academic standards that are unbiased and factual. Teachers need to teach kids the truths they ought to know to be knowledgeable, responsible and thoughtful citizens—not parrots of selected biases and distortions.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.