The Texas Board of Education voted last week (Sept. 14) to cut a slew of historical figures from the state’s social studies curriculum—and by their calculations, Christian evangelist Billy Graham is more important than deaf-blind activist Helen Keller, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state and first major-party female nominee to run for president.
The Dallas Morning News first reported that the vote was part of an effort to “streamline” the state’s curriculum, arguing that asking students to learn about so many historical figures “resulted in rote memorization of dates and names instead of real learning.” The 15-person, board-nominated volunteer group created a scale to grade historical figures, determining which were “essential” for children to learn. The group’s proposals will be put to a final vote in November.
Clinton scored a five on the 20-point scale. Helen Keller earned a seven.
The board also voted in favor of several other changes:
- To remove a phrase referring to the “optimism of the many immigrants who sought a better life in America.”
- To keep existing references to Billy Graham.
- To cut Republican senator and presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.
- To reinsert a reference to “Judeo-Christian” law.
- To reinsert a reference to the influence of the Biblical figure Moses on the founding US documents.
- To reinsert a reference to the “heroism” of the Alamo’s defenders.
- To add a prompt asking students to explain how “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict” in the Middle East.
This is far from the first time that Texas’s board of education has come under scrutiny for its curriculum decisions. The board also requires students to learn theories that challenge evolution and previously debated whether a Mexican-American studies course should be approved. (The course was ultimately green-lit.)
The latest vote is proving equally controversial. Governor Greg Abbott threw his support behind those who argued that the state curriculum should more closely align with Judeo-Christian values:
Chris Turner, Democratic caucus chairman in the Texas legislature, had the opposite viewpoint:
The Dallas Morning News said that the board’s decision won’t affect the state’s textbooks or educational materials, and teachers won’t be barred from discussing the historical figures who were voted out. But they will no longer be part of the required curriculum.