Part 1 of 3 focused on the process of creating our curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the effect of making the textbook adoption process widely accessible to the public, and keeping up with the publishers' responses to public comments. Now let's discuss the vote taken by the SBOE.
- On Friday before the final vote, a motion was passed to make the cutoff time for inclusion of publisher changes for 5 pm, Thursday. With the cutoff, the responses by publishers had to be posted on the TEA website by then to be considered. This is similar to the stipulation in SBOE rules requiring that amendments to our TEKS be submitted by 5 pm the day before the vote.
- Another motion was defeated to push the cutoff back to noon on Thursday. It is important to note that only one publisher’s changes (Worldview Software) were posted after noon. Excluding Worldview instructional materials (IMs) which failed to gain approval, during the 24 hours before the vote, we had a total of 38 proposed text changes to read, four of which were clear 2+2=5 errors (wrong date, etc.). Most were very short wording changes. There was plenty of time for those tuned into the process and for the SBOE to catch the last changes. Pay no attention to the hyperbole that the SBOE voted on changes we had not read. We had every opportunity to do so. Many stayed up late every evening all week to keep up with the proposed changes when the second wave of publisher responses started posting on November 12th.
- The final vote on the approved IMs was 10-5. I could only base my vote on the instructional materials before us. There was nothing else to consider. In my mind, a vote based on a protest of our cumbersome process or on the TEKS contained within the IMs or on passing off the approval responsibility to local school districts was far afield from the responsibility before us. While I appreciate being hard-pressed with the number of publisher responses we were tasked to consider after November 12th, in the end, it was a process we asked publishers to enter into in good faith. They held up their end of the bargain and much more. For my part, I felt obligated to do my due diligence staying informed about changes as they came and to cast my vote solely based on the IMs submitted.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Many continue to focus on shortcomings they find in our TEKS rather than on the instructional materials up for consideration by the Board. Specifically, they focus on missing elements in our standards such as a greater emphasis on segregation, Jim Crow laws, Ku Klux Klan, Chinese Exclusion Act, Native Americans, etc. However, these discussions in history, and many more deserving topics, ARE COVERED in the actual materials adopted.
It’s all there: the good, the bad and the ugly. History is full of all of it, usually all at the same time. Are the books perfect? Certainly not. There are various flaws here and there. But by and large, I’m proud of my vote for the approved social studies books. These materials have been read by hundreds of people wanting nothing more than to have the best materials available for use by Texas students. I believe that has been accomplished.
Moses - Part 1
The subject of Moses and the influence of religion on our founding fathers has been an easy target to use in creating sensational headlines. However, it is instructive to see the actual TEKS where Moses and the Ten Commandments are listed:
From the U.S. Government curriculum standards:
(c) (1) History. The student understands how constitutional government, as developed in America and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution, has been influenced by ideas, people, and historical documents. The student is expected to:
From the World History curriculum standards:
(C) identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu;
(c) (20) Government. The student understands how contemporary political systems have developed from earlier systems of government. The student is expected to:
Though some will disagree, I don’t believe most would take issue with these inclusions in the context with which they are listed and, particularly, as they are discussed in the IMs placed for our consideration. It is simply a part of our history.
(B) identify the impact of political and legal ideas contained in the following documents: Hammurabi's Code, the Jewish Ten Commandments, Justinian's Code of Laws, Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen;
In preparation for the SBOE meeting, I searched for an understanding of the depth of the influence of divine natural law (principles believed to be inspired by God*) and found that biblical understanding and inspiration was pervasive in the early years of the founding of our country. It absolutely took the stage alongside secular natural law (principles derived through physical, biological and behavioral laws of nature as perceived by human reason-think the Enlightenment*) and historical natural law (principles that evolved over time through custom, tradition or experience*). I personally cannot understand the angst generated over the inclusion of a discussion on divine natural law. Students would be ill-informed if a quality discussion on this part of our history were not included or was made to seem inconsequential. I can only conclude that most simply did not read what was in the materials themselves or simply read excerpts without considering the full context of the discussions.
Tomorrow I will finish up my thoughts on the infamous Moses debate, including some surprising connections of Moses with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. I will also discuss the value of SBOE IMs adoptions. Stay tuned…
As always, I am honored to serve you and the children of Texas!
*Definitions pulled from the free legal dictionary online.