Texas To Delete Hillary Clinton and Others From Curriculum

The Texas State Board of Education passed a preliminary vote to remove Clinton, as well as Helen Keller and others, from the social studies and history curriculum. It could become official in November.

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) wants to “streamline” its schools’ social studies and history curriculum. In an effort to eliminate some of the mandatory standards, a preliminary vote by the board approved the removal of Hillary Clinton—former Secretary of State, U.S. senator, First Lady, and the first female presidential candidate to be nominated by a major party—from required curriculum.

An email to SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich seeking comment and clarification received an automatic replay with her explanation of the situation:

“Texas simply has too many learning standards, required to be taught and assessed on state assessments, for educators to cover in a year,” she wrote. “This has been a persistent issue for several years now. The SBOE responded by putting work groups together (mostly educators) to go over our current standards and streamline them.”

“The goal of streamlining is to ensure the standards are focused on only the knowledge and skills that are essential in each course/grade level. Streamlining should produce fewer and clearer standards that are teachable in the time allotted without diluting the rigor of the standards. Bottom line: we are deleting and clarifying, not adding content.”

Bahorich’s email added that there would be no new textbooks, so anyone who included in current textbooks will remain and could still be discussed at the teacher’s discretion; it is just no longer a requirement. The SBOE’s final vote on the recommendations will be on Nov. 16. She subsequently wrote a column for The Washington Post, in which she argued against any suggestion of partisanship in the decision.

Clinton would not be the only prominent woman deleted. Third grade social studies students would no longer have to learn about Helen Keller in their prominent U.S. citizens section. And Eleanor Roosevelt would lost from the high school’s U.S. History Since 1877 class. Roosevelt, however, is mentioned in the first grade curriculum, so she would not be removed completely by history and social studies classes.

The recommendations were made to the board by groups who spent a year studying the standards and used a rubric to determine someone’s significance in history. Some of the rubric’s categories included the person’s lasting impact, sphere of influence, whether she made an impact for an underrepresented group, did she cause or was she part of a watershed moment or turning point in history, does she represent diverse perspectives, diverse cultures, and is she essential for the course and grade level.

Clinton and Roosevelt both received a total of 5 points (out of a possible 20) and were deemed “not necessary.” Oprah Winfrey totaled 7 points and was also deemed not necessary. Susan B. Anthony scored a 19 and will be staying. Points were not the only decided factor, however. In the secondary U.S. Government curriculum, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) both received 20 points and were deemed “essential” to the course. The National Rifle Association (NRA) scored a 9 and was also considered “essential.”

The SBOE is not required to follow the recommendations, and in some cases, they did not. For example, the defenders of the Alamo will still be taught as heroes despite a suggestion to remove that qualifier, but, as noted, they approved the complete removal of Clinton and Keller from Texas curriculum. To be fair, the recommendations do not only recommend cutting women. George S. Patton and other men may be lost, as well. There is even a suggestion to remove George Washington from eighth grade standards, because he is taught in two earlier grades.

And, Bahorich’s email noted, “Barry Goldwater (the first candidate of ethnically Jewish heritage to be nominated for President by a major American party) is recommended for removal as well.”

That is true. But because women's stories are not well told in history classes across the country, the loss of those figures will have a much bigger impact. The National Women’s History Museum studied each state’s history standards and came to the conclusion that, "women's experiences and stories are not well integrated into U.S. state history standards. The lack of representation and context in state-level materials presupposes that women's history is even less represented at the classroom level. This implies that women's history is not important."

The study found 1,975 mentions of "women, women's history, and women's roles within all state standards, which overwhelmingly emphasize women in their domestic roles." There were 178 individual women named, 15 of whom are mentioned more than 10 times. These include Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, and Sacagawea.

"Our goal was to find out who/what was and was not being taught in classrooms around the country," says Kenna Howat of NWHM. "Thanks to our study, we now know that Helen Keller is taught in classrooms in Alabama, Montana, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. We also know that Hillary Clinton is taught in Texas, Tennessee, and Kansas. Our study found that only 178 women are mentioned by name in state standards from around the United States. While the removal of Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller means that number of women mentioned in classrooms around the country stays the same, it also means that Clinton is only taught in two states and Keller in four."

Collecting the data, the report, and analysis were Phase I of a four-part project. In Phase II, NWHM created resources to fill the gaps in its website’s attempts to support educators with complementary materials. Volunteer teachers spent the summer creating online classroom resources around the current women in history mentioned in the curriculum based on the study's findings.

Those resources, which are now available, include comics, lesson plans, primary sources and new biographies in an always expanding section dedicated to the “lesser known and famous women who impacted our nation.” For the teachers in Texas who want to include those lost from the curriculum, Clinton, Keller, and Roosevelt can all be found at womenshistory.org.

“We realize there are many important historical figures and that reasonable people can disagree on who is essential to include,” Bahorich’s automatic email reply concluded. “I believe the work groups and the Board have tried our best to not encumber the teachers with an abundance of ‘required’ content, historical figures and events in an effort to allow for teaching and discussion flexibility. The Board will make a final consideration in November. There will be Board discussion and consideration on this topic.”



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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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