SBOE to Vote This Week on Social Studies Standards

That's right folks, by Friday eve we should know whether the pleas of civil rights activists, education specialists, and legislators fell on deaf ears or not at the Texas State Board of Education. Beyond evolution, beyond Bible electives, it's the social studies TEKS (short for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the minimum standards for what goes in Texas textbooks and on standardized testing) that have captured the attention of the nation. While civil rights activists, including many representatives from San Antonio, sounded alarms about various exclusions of Hispanic and African-American historical figures and the inclusion of some pro-capitalist (oops, I mean 'free-enterprise') patriarchy supporters, we could practically hear educators grinding their teeth over the 90 pages of social studies standards for elementary, middle and high school students, which some believe are too bloated and will lead to more teaching to the test. For example, 6th grade social studies teachers may soon scramble to ensure they're covering: (9) (B) identify and differentiate among free enterprise, socialist, and communist economies in various contemporary societies, including the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system; (C) understand the morals and ethics in maintaining a functional free enterprise system and; (D) understand the poor record of collectivist, non-free market economic systems to deliver improved economic development over numerous contemporary and historical societies. Wow. That's a pretty ambitious lesson plan considering many adults don't truly understand what socialism is, and several billion educated adults in the world are still apparently deluded as to their non-free market economies' poor records. And it's but one of 23 TEKS (with two to five subsections each) that must be covered in the span of one school year. On top of these concerns, several state legislators are miffed to learn the SBOE standard operating procedures come nowhere near the meticulous and oversight-heavy safeguards they must contend with when recommending legislation. The ACLU of Texas recently jumped into the fray, issuing a 20-page report on how procedural weaknesses at the SBOE lend themselves to manipulation by board members looking to push a particular ideology into objective education standards.

It's doubtful these concerns will register in a different course of action other than the expected passage of the Social Studies TEKS, which is recommended by Texas Education Agency Robert Scott. However, more than 170 people have signed up to speak during public comments on Wednesday and various news outlets report that even more amendments may be added to the TEKS during the meeting. To view the fun times at the Capitol for yourself, hike over to the William B. Travis building, 1701 N. Congress, Austin, room 104-1 Weds.-Fri. or check out the live web cast on the TEA web site.

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