Controversial Texas Textbooks Coming To Classrooms This Fall

Jul 13, 2015 by


By: Laura Isensee –

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Samantha Mancha took this screenshot of a lesson from online material published by McGraw-Hill. She said that she finds some of the wording confusing because it highlights state’s rights and downplays the issue of slavery.

This fall, students in Texas schools will start using new textbooks.

Those books have sparked a national debate on how students should learn American history, in particular the history of race and slavery.

For example, in eighth grade, students are supposed to learn that sectionalism and states’ rights caused the Civil War –and that slavery played a secondary role.

That’s one of the flashpoints in the latest controversy over new Texas textbooks: Most historians agree that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War.

“The history of the United States is full of the good, the bad and the ugly and often at the same time. It’s important for students to have the full picture and I feel confident that they will have that in the social studies books that are going to be hitting the desks this fall,” said Donna Bahorich, the new chair of the Texas State Board of Education.

She acknowledged that the Texas learning standards – the template that publishers have to follow – were missing important elements in the history of race in the United States.

Samantha Mancha teaches U.S. history in the Houston Independent School District. She said she plans to use a lot of historical documents in her class and plans to teach students how books can tell different versions of history.

“The missing elements that were a source of concern like the Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, that kind of thing that you would expect to see are in fact in those books,” she said.

Bahorich said next time Texas adopts new materials, she wants to gather more feedback early on.

She added that she has confidence in teachers to fill in any gaps.

But the new books give some teachers pause.

“It means I need to make more critical decisions about the materials that I use in the classroom,” said Samantha Manchac, who teaches high school U.S. history in the Houston Independent School District.

She’s been following the debate on books since the state board adopted more conservative standards back in 2010.

“I felt like it was bad history, very ideologically driven in the decisions that they made and definitely an attempt in many instances to whitewash our history, as opposed to exposing students to the reality of things and letting them make decisions for themselves,” Manchac said.

Publishers have to follow state learning standards if they want to sell to the Texas market, the second largest in the country with some five million students.

Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning watch dog group, said that publishers managed to “thread the needle” so that their final books acknowledge the role of slavery and race in American history, but they still meet the Texas standards.

“But in doing so they still muddied the waters a bit,” he said.

Source: Controversial Texas Textbooks Coming To Classrooms This Fall – 07-10-2015 : Houston Public Media … Houston Public Media

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