The Culture Wars of the Texas K–12 Schoolbooks

AHA Session 129
Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Delaware Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Emilio Zamora, University of Texas at Austin
Speaking Truth to Power: The Role of Chicana/o Historians
Carlos Kevin Blanton, Texas A&M University
The AHA and Advocacy within the Recent Texas Textbook Fight
Trinidad Gonzales, South Texas College
The Politics of Distortion in Texas K–12 History
Dan Quinn, Texas Freedom Network

Session Abstract

This year, the Texas State Board of Education will be in the middle of revising the state’s social studies and history curriculum standards — standards that have drawn the attention of the nation’s leading historians to what has been called a “politicized distortion of history.” When the Board of Education reviewed a highly controversial version of a textbook on Mexican History for K-12 students, it drew many advocates to utilize in their testimony in front of the Texas State Board of Education and to the larger public. Utilizing AHA standards for assessing the textbook increased the clout of the scholars' work that at times was dismissed because of the silent, but clear highly questionable perspective of dismissing Latin@s Ph.D.s' rigorous assessments.

In responding to and rejecting the controversial textbook, several themes emerged as new departures in recent decades from the “traditional” in the field. One major theme is an element of continuity from the founding of Chicana/o history and Chicana/o studies to the present. This panel at the AHA in Washington, DC stands as visible testimony of this last point that scholarship today is just as socially and politically active. In these shocking past few weeks, we have learned that speaking truth to power has become that much more dangerous and that much more necessary. This panel proposes to review the recent textbook controversy over the “culture wars” in Texas textbooks, provide background information on the responses of scholars to the Board of Education, and to propose principles that should be followed in developing viable textbooks for school children of Texas and the nation.

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