Texas Board of Education could overhaul social studies curriculum

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas students could see drastic changes in social studies curriculum for the next 10 years, hinging upon a once-a-decade rewrite from the Texas State Board of Education. 

Those conversations are underway in the board’s Monday special meeting to kick off August, as students are weeks away from heading back to the classroom for the 2022-23 school year. 

Recent Fort Worth high school graduate Olivia Castillo said her world history class missed the mark.

“Learning the truth has been incredibly transformative in how I see the world today,” Castillo said. “It’s just as important for students to understand the diversity of human experience.”

She is one of 126 people who signed up to speak publicly during Monday’s board meeting, where interested parties filled just about every seat in the boardroom. Twenty-one registered in favor of the curriculum changes as currently written;, 34 registered opposed and the remainder of the group are listed to only comment on the matter. Some argued the history of indigenous people and other groups aren’t taught fairly and accurately, while others said topics like race and religion are too complex for certain grades.

The proposal comes from a work committee of chosen content advisors and volunteer work groups. They were tasked with reviewing social studies standards and floating potential curriculum changes to the board. You can read the drafted proposed changes here.

A few lawmakers and the Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht testified at the beginning of the board meeting.

In a rare appearance, the chief justice implored board members to strengthen civic curriculum, so students will better understand the nation’s judicial system. He said there is widespread concern in the legal community about lapses in civics education and how it is affecting the nation’s health.

“Answers to these fundamental questions about the justice system are not easy. All must be taught. The first thing the public needs to trust the justice system is this — an educated understanding of how the system works, and how the three branches check and balance each other,” he said.

This discussion comes after Senate Bill 3 took effect, which state lawmakers passed during the 2021 session amidst a national debate over what can be taught in public schools and how — adding provisions to Texas’ Education Code, which change how certain topics like race and racism are explored and discussed in the classroom. These conversations in school boards across the country were part of backlash of America’s reckoning racism, sparked after the 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man, who was killed by a police officer. 

Respective committee members are giving a summary of their takeaways to board members. The Board is not making a decision on these curriculum changes tonight, ad members will meet again for a regular meeting at the end of the month. The agenda for this meeting has not been published yet. You can watch Monday’s board meeting here.

This is a developing story; check back for updates. Monica Madden will have a full report on KXAN at 5 p.m.

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