San Antonio, TX – Today, State Representative Mike Villarreal, Rabbi Barry Block and historian Dr. Kirsten Gardner will call on the State Board of Education (SBOE) to put education over ideology when the Board votes this week on adoption of new standards to guide social studies curriculum in our state. In the past few months, the Board has overlooked the work of academic experts in order to promote their personal ideological agendas.
Among other problematic revisions, the proposed standard weakens the study of constitutional protections that provide for the separation of church and state - a principal that has been crucial to the protection of religious freedom in our nation. It would also strike reference to Thomas Jefferson in the list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries. Conservative Board members reject Jefferson's philosophy of "separation of church and state".
State Representative Mike Villarreal criticized the exclusion, stating, “This attempt to indoctrinate rather than educate has become a national embarrassment. Even without these sideshows, we already face serious education challenges in this state.”
“Truth and knowledge are but two of the many religious values that extremists on our State Board of Education have ignored and abused while rewriting history to fit their political goals,” added Rabbi Barry Block, Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio.
If passed, these decisions will become the guideline for classrooms and textbooks for the next decade. And the decision has reach far beyond the state as Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks.
Academic historians have expressed concern that the integrity of the curriculum has been compromised as Board members made ad hoc decisions on the inclusion of historical figures, and attempted to censor terminology that is widely used in historical scholarship.
Dr. Kirsten Gardner said, "The pattern of arbitrary and ideologically driven SBOE revisions fails to teach our children about the profession of history, the practice of history, and the application of history. Our children deserve an education that is informed by a democratic practice of history, one that includes stories of struggle, explains historical significance, and is filled with instruction about the how and why we collect histories. The classroom should be a space where our students can think critically and learn about the past. "
“We don't want liberal textbooks or conservative textbooks,” Villarreal noted. “We want excellent textbooks, written by historians instead of activists.”
This gathering in San Antonio is one of many around the state in which religious, academic and political leaders have called on the Board to put education over ideology and provide a high quality education for Texas school children. The Board has already received 20,000 comments on the proposed standard. Villarreal will present the Board with a petition signed by over 1,800 citizens expressing concern about the SBOE’s attempt to politicize the social studies curriculum.