The Texas State Board of Education voted Friday to “streamline” the social studies curriculum in its public schools, including reconsidering which historical figures are considered required learning. Board members approved the removal of Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller, the deaf and blind woman who became a college graduate, author, and political activist, while keeping Biblical figure Moses in lessons on the founding of the US. In addition, they reinstated controversial references to the “heroism” of American defenders at the Battle of the Alamo. The list of suggested changes was provided by Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills work groups.
The board was asked to consider which historical figures were essential, specifically whether they “triggered a watershed change,” were from an “underrepresented group,” or impacted the world in a way that would “stand the test of time.” The process was meant to simplify history lessons and reduce the number of mandatory historical figures and events to study. Under the change, teachers are not prohibited from including Clinton or Keller in lesson plans. The women are simply no longer part of the required curriculum.
The education board has garnered attention in the past, some claiming that their largely conservative board membership creates an imbalance in their decision making. In 2013, members of the board argued over whether science books should have to teach an alternative to evolution. Earlier this year, the suggestion of adding an elective Mexican-American history course to Texas high schools was the subject of much debate.
Friday’s vote is a preliminary decision. The final vote – affecting 5.4 million students – takes place in November.