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Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is Going on in Texas?

The state of Texas is updating its social studies standards, a list of things that students in public schools are supposed to know by the time they graduate. The standards are called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), cover all thirteen grades from K-12, and are over 100 pages long. The TEKS are only one of several sets of standards that govern public education in Texas.

 

Why is Texas Doing This?

The social studies TEKS were first signed into law in 1998 with a provision that they be updated periodically; they are being updated now for the first time.

 

Who is in Charge of this Process?

The TEKS are prepared by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) and passed into law by the Texas legislature.

 

Is Texas Revising Textbooks?

Texas is revising the standards that will guide the selection of textbooks, but the debate over specific textbooks will not occur until 2011.

 

Has Texas eliminated everything before 1877?

Education officials in North Carolina made that attempt earlier this year, but quickly backtracked after public outcry. Texas treats U.S. history to 1877 in 8th grade and U.S. history since 1877 in 11th grade.

 

Has Texas removed Thomas Jefferson?

Jefferson has been removed from a list of figures influencing 18th-century revolutions (10th grade world history) but he remains in the treatment of the American Revolution (8th grade U.S. history).

 

Has Texas removed César Chávez, Christmas, or Veteran’s Day?

All three remain in the latest draft of the TEKS. One of the expert reviewers criticized Chávez so the labor leader was moved from 3rd grade to 11th grade but he was never entirely removed; in the second draft of the TEKS, the world history review committee proposed studying one theologically significant holiday from major world religions and chose Easter for Christianity, but Christmas was quickly restored after public outcry; Veteran’s Day was added to the first draft in three places and has not been removed.

 

Is the SBOE led by a Conservative Activist named Don McLeroy?

McLeroy (R-College Station) is an openly-activist conservative and he did serve as chair until May 2009, but the current chair is Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas). McLeroy remains a member of the SBOE until his term expires in January 2011.

 

Has the SBOE politicized the process?

Technically, the process is political. SBOE members are elected and the TEKS are passed into law by the state legislature. As in other levels of government in America, distribution of powers are politically contested. Over the past few years, the Texas state senate has stripped the SBOE of some of the powers it previously had; in the March 2010 primary elections, candidates ran against incumbent SBOE members because of the current social studies process (McLeroy lost his primary election); and the democratic candidate for governor in the fall 2010 election has already begun to blame incumbent Governor Rick Perry for the current social studies controversies. However, the 15 people currently serving on the SBOE will serve through the completion of the TEKS revision process; 10 of them are Republicans, 5 are Democrats.

 

How Can I Quickly Learn What is Going On?

Read Texas Social Studies Simplified to learn the background and sign up for the TEKSWatch mailing list to get the latest updates.

 

The content of this website is intended for informational and educational purposes only and the mention of positions, publications, products, or organizations does not imply endorsement by the Center for History Teaching & Learning, the UTEP History Department, or The University of Texas at El Paso.

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