Thursday, August 17, 2017 ..:: About the Process » The Bigger Picture ::.. Register  Login
Follow TEKSWatch: RSS Facebook Mailing List

The Bigger Picture


The present debate about the Texas Social Studies curriculum forms part of a long history of debate in Texas and the nation about the purpose and methods of history education.

Over the past 40 years, education in America has been marked by a nationwide emphasis on standards, testing, and accountability. Since the mid-1990s, there have been several debates about state and national history standards and in the process textbooks have played an increasingly prominent role and earned growing criticism.

The history of education in Texas grows out a special set of developments, including long-standing resistance to centralized control, a history of politicized debate, and a particularly Texan way of viewing the past (and therefore the present and future).  After highlighting a few key works, a longer list of recommended reading follows.


Standards, Testing, and Accountability in Recent American Education History

The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn by Diane Ravitch. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.
  • Ravitch draws on decades of experience in public education to make a case that over the past 30 years publishers, testing companies, and pressure groups on both the political left and right have promoted a hyper sensitivity to language and representation that effectively creates a new extreme form of bias.
  • Along the way Ravitch discusses censorship by conservatives in Houston public schools (chapter 5), the "Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption" in Texas (chapter 7), and the past battles over history curricula in Texas (chapter 9).

Find more . . .


Debates about State and National History Standards

National History Standards (1994-1996)


Florida (2006)


North Carolina (2010)


Find more . . .


Textbooks and Textbook Publishing

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. 2nd edition. New York: Touchstone, 2007.
  • Loewen reviews a dozen textbooks to point out their emphases (heroes, opportunity, and progress) and omissions (racism, anti-racism, and the recent past).
  • In chapter 12 he relates his own experience in writing a textbook for the state of Mississippi and along the way illuminates the twists and turns in the process of textbook creation and adoption.
48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School) by Larry Schweikart. 2nd edition. New York: Sentinel, 2008.
  • In a counterpoint to Loewen, Schweikart contends that textbooks have become evermore politically correct and distorted.
  • Among the topics treated are economics, foreign policy, war, religion, and race relations.
History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History by Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward. New York: The New Press, 2004.
  • This clever volume juxtaposes excerpts of textbooks from different nations about the same event to provide a revealing glimpse into how history is taught differently throughout the world.
  • Includes selections from Mexico, Russia, France, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Canada, and others, covering such events as the American Revolution, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Korean War.

Find more . . .


History Education in Texas

To Get a Better School System: One Hundred Years of Education Reform in Texas by Gene B. Preuss. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2009.
  • In the nineteenth century, Texan students learned in rural, one-room schoolhouses. During the century after the Civil War, through a lengthy and politicized process of public debate, Texans gradually moved toward a centralized, state-funded school system--the culmination came in 1949 when the state legislature passed the Gilmer-Aikin laws which empowered the state board of education to appoint a commissioner over education, established minimum standards for teacher training, raised teacher salaries without regard for race or sex, mandated a nine-month academic year for students, and increased funding in a system that drew from both state and local monies.
  • Texans adopted a centralized, tax-supported system in the 1940s because they faced a convergence of crises—economic and educational transformations inaugurated by World War II, the embarrassing revelation that Texas soldiers were ineligible for military service due to inadequate education and poor health, a growing population sparked by the baby boom, and the urgency to preserve democracy in the Cold War era by investing in education.
Leaving Latinos Out of History: Teaching U.S. History in Texas by Julio Noboa. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • This study combines textual analysis of the original TEKS (1998) and the textbooks based on them with classroom observation and testimony to conclude that Latinos were highly underrepresented in the Texas curriculum.

Find more . . .


The Place of History in Texas Public Life

Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas edited by Gregg Cantrell and Elizabeth Hayes Turner. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2007.
  • A wide range of scholars examine the ways that Texas' pasts are remembered and memorialized  over time.
  • The Alamo is examined as a site of memory in architecture, art, and film.
  • Other topics include monuments erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, public and private Juneteenth celebrations, the Tejano memorial on the Capitol grounds commemorating the history of Mexicans in Texas, the meanings and memories of the Ku Klux Klan, the significance of the civil rights movement in the eyes of different generations of Texans, and the lasting (or fading) Texan memories of Lyndon Baines Johnson..

Find more . . .


Recommended Reading

Tell us about another essential read

Standards, Testing, and Accountability in Recent American Education History

Cuban, Larry. How Teachers Taught: Constancy and Change in American Classrooms, 1890-1990. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press, 1993.

Evans, Ronald W. The Social Studies Wars: What Should We Teach the Children? New York: Teachers College Press, 2004.

Levitt, Steven D., and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. HarperCollins, 2006. [Chapter 1 examines why public school teachers cheat for their students on standardized tests]

Maestri, Melissa Amy. “The Myth of a Multicultural Curriculum: An Analysis of New York State U.S. History Regents.” The History Teacher 39, no. 3 (May 2006).

Nichols, Sharon L., and David C. Berliner. Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2007. [Includes a lot of data on Texas and in comparison with other states]

Palmer, D. and A. W. Lynch. "A Bilingual Education for a Monolingual Test? The Pressure to Prepare for TAKS and its Influence on Choices for Language of Instruction in Texas Elementary Bilingual Classrooms." Language Policy 7, no. 3 (2008): 217-235.

Ravitch, Diane. The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980. Basic Books, 1983.

Wiener, Jon, and Diane Ravitch. "American History 101." Slate Online, May 17-19, 2005.

Wineburg, Sam. "Crazy for History." Journal of American History 90, no. 4 (March 2004).

Zimmerman, Jonathan. Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

Zimmerman, Jonathan. Whose America?: Culture Wars in the Public Schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.


Debates about State and National History Standards

LaSpina, James Andrew. California in a Time of Excellence: School Reform at the Crossroads of the American Dream. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

MacMillan, Margaret. Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History. New York: Modern Library, 2009.

Nash, Gary B. History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past. 1st ed. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1997.


Textbooks and Textbook Publishing

Brinkley, Alan. "The Challenges and Rewards of Textbook Writing: An Interview with Alan Brinkley." The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005).

Cohen, Daniel J. "By the Book: Assessing the Place of Textbooks in U.S. Survey Courses." The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005).

Forman, Steve. "Textbook Publishing: An Ecological View." The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005).

Guasco, Michael J. "Building the Better Textbook: The Promises and Perils of E-Publication." The Journal of American History 89, no. 4 (March 2003).

Jaffee, David. "'Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye': E-Supplements and the Teaching of U.S. History." The Journal of American History 89, no. 4 (March 2003).

Kornblith, Gary J., and Carol Lasser. "'The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth': Writing, Producing, and Using College-Level American History Textbooks." The History Teacher 91, no. 4 (March 2005).

Masur, Louis P. "Pictures have Now Become a Necessity: The Use of Images in American History Textbooks." The Journal of American History 84, no. 4 (March 1998): 1409-24.

Norton, Mary Beth. "Reflections of a Longtime Textbook Author; or, History Revised, Revised—and Revised Again." The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005).

Tebeau, Mark. "Pursuing E-Opportunities in the History Classroom." The Journal of American History 89, no. 4 (March 2003).

VanSledright, Bruce. "Thinking historically." Journal of Curriculum Studies, 41, no. 3 (2009): 433-438.

Zimmerman, Jonathan. "Brown-ing the American Textbook: History, Psychology, and the Origins of Modern Multiculturalism." History of Education Quarterly 44, no. 1 (Spring 2004).


History Education in Texas

Cashion, Ty. "Three R’s and the Hickory Stick on the Texas Frontier." East Texas Historical Journal, 36, no. 2 (Fall 2002). [Examines the diary of a teacher in western Texas during the American Civil War; the teacher dealt with some issues that plague teachers today--school prayer, meddling administrators, and discipline--but also had to suspend school on occasion to go on Indiana campaigns]

Salvucci, Linda K. "Getting the Facts Straight: New Views of Mexico and Its Peoples in Recently Adopted U.S. History Textbooks in Texas," The Public Historian 14, no. 4 (Fall 1992): 57-69 [analyzes textbooks adoptions from 1992-1998]

Salvucci, Linda K., "Mexico, Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Secondary-School U.S. History Textbooks," The History Teacher 24, no. 2 (Feb. 1991): 203-222 [analyzes textbooks adoptions from 1986-1992]

San Miguel Jr., Guadalupe. "Let All of Them Take Heed": Mexican Americans and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1919-1981. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1987.

Shabazz, Amilcar. Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Texas Education Agency. "An Overview of the History of Public Education in Texas."

Texas Reference Sources Online. "Education."

Texas State Historical Association. The Handbook of Texas Online. "Education," "Commissioner of Education," "Texas Education Agency," "Mexican Americans and Education," "Education for African Americans," "Women and Education," "Teacher Education."

Texas State Historical Association. Texas Almanac. "Education."


The Place of History in Texas Public Life

Brundage, W. Fitzhugh. The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.

Horowitz, Tony. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. [Explores the wider context of Confederate memories across the South]

Linenthal, Edward Tabor. Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. [Chapter 2 examines competing memories of the Alamo; and the book places them in context with memories of other battlefields, including Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg, Little Bighorn, and Pearl Harbor]

Ray, Celeste, ed. Southern Heritage on Display: Public Ritual and Ethnic Diversity within Southern Regionalism. Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 2003. [Chapter 8 discusses the public memory of the Alamo in San Antonio]


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.

Copyright (c) 2017 TEKSWatch   Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement