Schools across Texas could soon be barred from teaching children about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the classroom.
The State Board of Education will take a preliminary vote on Tuesday on whether or not to eliminate Hillary Clinton and a small number of other historical figures from the social studies curriculum.
Statesman.com reports: Many of the 30-plus people who spoke before the board Tuesday morning expressed concerns on the removal of Keller and the Women Airforce Service Pilots, civilian women who flew in non-combat roles during World War II; the training base was in Sweetwater, Texas.
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“Without broad academic knowledge of Helen Keller my daughter and other deaf blind-students cease to exist. They don’t make sense. Their deaf-blindness, their disabilities and what could have been emerging abilities and value to our communities have no point of reference,” said Robbie Caldwell, the Austin regional coordinator for The Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas and the mother of a 17-year-old deaf-blind daughter.
About a half-dozen family members of the female pilot group touted the historical relevance of their mothers and grandmothers’ service in the war.
“She like most others didn’t become a WASP for the fame because there was none,” said Tom Lucas, whose mother was a member of the female pilot group. “To use my mother’s words, they did it because they wanted to do their part to support their country.”
A bulk of people also spoke on the way the social studies curriculum casts the Arab-Israeli conflict by requiring students to “explain how Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict.” Arab supporters criticized the language as bias if not false, saying Palestinians have recognized the State of Israel. Israeli supporters, speaking positively of the particular curriculum standard, rattled off a list of Arab nations that have never had relations with Israel.
“Currently, 19 of the 21 countries that make up the Arab League do not recognize the State of Israel. Fact. Sixteen of these Arab countries do not admit persons with Israel passports into their countries. Fact,” said Boerne resident Roy White with the group Truth in Textbooks.
Some speakers also rejected another part of the curriculum that has students learn about the “development of radical Islamic fundamentalism and the subsequent use of terrorism by some of its adherents.”
“The fundamentals of any religion are the core of its religion. To tie Islam and terrorism and fundamentalism all together Is to say that terrorism is a fundamental part of Islam, which it absolutely is not,” said Shifa Bhatti, a middle school teacher in the Mansfield school district.
Nobody spoke in favor of reinstating Clinton Tuesday morning.
The Republican-majority board had appointed earlier this year groups of education professionals to cut down the amount of social studies material that elementary, middle and high school students must learn. The work groups eliminated references to Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party, and Helen Keller, the disability rights advocate who was the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college.
Also removed was Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee who was the first ethnically Jewish presidential nominee from a major party and is considered the progenitor of the modern conservative movement.
With most of their discussion instead centered on Alamo-related instruction, board members in September tentatively approved adopting the work groups’ recommendations. After Tuesday’s vote and a final vote on Friday by the board, the curriculum is slated to go into effect next school year.
Although the work groups had recommended eliminating the late evangelist Billy Graham and Moses from certain areas of the curriculum, board members singled them out to be reinstated.
The board’s action drew sharp criticism from disability rights proponents as well as liberal activists who accused the panel of partisanship.
The board’s chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, has since penned an op-ed published in multiple publications defending the board’s duties to streamline the state’s social studies curriculum and to “yield back significant time to teachers.” She added that the curriculum doesn’t keep teachers from teaching material not included in the state standards.
Liberal activists and scholars also have criticized the board for including in the curriculum other causes of the Civil War besides slavery, including sectionalism and state’s rights.
“In doing so, the TEKS standards resurrect the ‘Lost Cause’ myth, a long discredited version of history first promoted in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to glorify the Confederate past and reinforce white supremacist policies such as the disenfranchisement of African-Americans and Jim Crow segregation,” according to an open letter signed by nearly 200 historians and university professors.
The letter also criticized the curriculum for singling out southern Democrats as opponents of civil rights legislation. Work groups did not change this particular curriculum standard, which was first included in 2010 when the State Board of Education was considered more politically divisive than it is now.
“In fact, a number of leading Republicans, including Texas Sen. John Tower and GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater of Arizona, also opposed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964,” according to a news release from Austin-based Texas Freedom Network.
Veterans and their families are also unhappy with the removal of elementary school instruction of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
“During WWII, the WASP flew planes from factories to airbases, towed live targets for anti-aircraft training, test-piloted newly-repaired and experimental aircraft, trained male pilots, transported vital equipment and personnel, and much more,” according to a petition posted on the Sweetwater-based National WASP WWII Museum’s website.