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Texas students may not be required to learn about Helen Keller

Posted at 11:56 AM, Sep 19, 2018

Texas students may no longer have to learn about Hillary Clinton, Barry Goldwater and Helen Keller in social studies class.

Texas wants to delete some content from the required curriculum so that teachers can take deeper dives into certain topics, rather than emphasizing such things as the memorization of dates, Donna Bahorich, chairperson of the Texas State Board of Education said in a statement Monday.

Officials said teachers can still talk about the excised historical figures — but it will not be mandatory. There won’t be new textbooks under the plan, so the “cut” figures will remain on paper.

Bahorich said that the board realizes people will disagree on who is essential to include in the required curriculum.

“Texas simply has too many learning standards, required to be taught and assessed on state assessments, for educators to cover in a year,” she said.

The board made a preliminary decision Friday to “streamline” the curriculum for its 5.4 million students, acting upon recommendations from volunteer work groups. It will take a final vote in November.

The working groups looked at historical figures and scored them on a point system, with factors including diverse perspectives, whether they were part of a watershed moment and the impact on or for underrepresented groups.

Clinton scored a five; Keller, an advocate for the deaf and blind, a seven; and Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential candidate, received no points.

Evangelist Billy Graham scored a 4 on the scale, and an earlier working group recommended he be removed from the curriculum. But he was back in the final recommendation.

The preliminary vote did bring some criticism.

“If Helen Keller was an important historical figure when I was in school (and she was), then she still is today,” Texas state Rep. Chris Turner tweeted Friday. “@HillaryClinton is the 1st and only woman to be the presidential nominee of a major party in U.S. history. Enough said.”

What is perhaps the most famous landmark in Texas also came up for discussion. The school board rejected an advisory board’s recommendation that the word “heroic” not be used to describe the defenders of the Alamo against the Mexican army in 1836. The board did give final approval on a new Mexican-American studies course.