Don’t call the Alamo’s defenders ‘heroic,’ Texas school curriculum panel urges

Dear Friends,

This article needs our immediate attention!  Written by Rebekah Allen, Allen is a new Texas state government reporter based in Austin and working for The Dallas Morning News. Shared by Donna Garner, a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

 

Don’t call the Alamo’s defenders ‘heroic,’  Texas school curriculum panel urges

 

 AUSTIN — A panel advising the State Board of Education on what seventh-graders should learn in their social studies courses has urged deleting the label “heroic” from a curriculum standard about the Alamo’s defenders.

The proposed tweak to a directive about what teachers should teach about Texas history and the state’s most iconic battle infuriated several state politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who characterized the nonbinding advice as political correctness run amok.

“Stop political correctness in our schools,” Abbott, a Republican, tweeted Thursday in response to the story, first reported by Texas Monthly. “Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain.”

Stop political correctness in our schools. Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain. ⁦@TXSBOE#txlege #tcot https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/texas-schoolchildren-taught-alamo-defenders-heroic/ …

The recommendation, made in a report issued last month, was one of several hundred tweaks, additions and deletions offered up by the advisory group reviewing state curriculum standards for social studies. The panel said “heroic” was a “value-charged word.”

But Barbara Stevens, president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, said the word is critical to giving Texas history its proper context.

“Words like ‘heroic’ to describe such men are indeed ‘value charged,’ and it is because anything less would be a disservice to their memories,” Stevens said. “To minimize the study of the Republic of Texas is to fail to teach a pivotal portion of the state’s history.”

Current seventh-grade social studies curriculum standards include the “siege of the Alamo and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.” The advisory committee recommended cutting the phrase “and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.”

 Travis’ letter

The advisory committee, made up of educators and historians, also suggested removing the requirement that students explain “the Travis Letter,” sometimes referred to as the “Victory or Death” letter. It was written by Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis during the Alamo battle. In it, he declared, “I shall never surrender or retreat” from the thousand or more Mexican soldiers besieging the Alamo.

“I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country — victory or death,” Travis wrote in 1836.

Last month, Work Group E, a group of educators and historians that is one of the advisory panels helping the State Board of Education update and tighten curriculum standards, urged that the label “heroic” be struck from a reference to the Alamo’s defenders in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

The recommendations say the letter can be explained by teachers within the context of the battle rather than requiring a separate discussion.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush, whose office oversees the Alamo historical site, said the proposed changes were a nonstarter for him.

“This politically correct nonsense is why I’ll always fight to honor the Alamo defenders’ sacrifice. His letter & the defenders’ actions must remain at the very core of TX history teaching,” Bush tweeted Thursday, referring to the Travis letter. “This is not debatable to me.”

This politically correct nonsense is why I’ll always fight to honor the Alamo defenders’ sacrifice. His letter & the defenders’ actions must remain at the very core of TX history teaching. This is not debatable to me. https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/texas-schoolchildren-taught-alamo-defenders-heroic/ …

Responding to the outcry, State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Bahorich tweeted Friday that she didn’t support the removal of the letter. Hers is one of 15 votes on the board.

“Our @TXSBOE work committees have done an excellent job of streamlining TX social studies standards, however, I do not support deleting one of the most iconic letters in US History for 7th grade. #HeroesAll #txed,” Bahorich wrote. She did not return a phone call Friday.

Our @TXSBOE work committees have done an EXCELLENT job of streamlining TX social studies standards, however, I do not support deleting one of the most iconic letters in US History for 7th grade. #HeroesAll #txed #RememberTheAlamo https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/texas-schoolchildren-taught-alamo-defenders-heroic/ …

SBOE rationale

Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the recommendation was made in response to complaints that curriculum standards are too long. The advisory group has been reviewing curriculum requirements subject by subject to streamline instruction. This will be the first time social studies standards have been updated since 2010.

“Could this be reduced by either deleting information, combining standards or clarifying? That was the goal,” Ratcliffe said. “They suggested deleting the Travis letter because they think when teachers talk about the Alamo they will absolutely mention it, but not having it outlined specifically just meant teachers would spend less time on it.”

The State Board of Education will meet next week to discuss the matter. A public hearing on all of the curriculum changes will be held Tuesday, and the board could take a tentative vote on Friday. A final vote won’t be taken until the board’s November meeting.

Walter Buenger, a historian who specializes in Texas history at the University of Texas at Austin, said he could understand why there may be a desire to remove as subjective a descriptor as “heroic” from discussions of those involved in the battle.

“Many times the Alamo gets boiled down, as it often does in movies, to the Mexicans are the bad guys and the good guys are good Anglos in coonskin caps,” Buenger said. He noted that many Mexicans fought alongside Texans in the siege.

“Part of the problem with the word heroic may be that it’s too simplistic,” he said.

But Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Innovation in Education for the free-market-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation, said it’s appropriate and necessary for educators to teach students who the good guys and bad guys are in history books.

Lindsay, a longtime college educator, said he has often referred to Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as “heroic” in his history lessons.

“To intentionally deprive our students of such powerful lessons about human dignity and principled courage is the moral equivalent of child psychological abuse,” Lindsay said. “This twisting of history deprives our students of the truth. If courage in the defense of liberty and equality is not heroic, what, precisely, is?”

To view original article: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2018/09/07/dont-call-alamos-defenders-heroic-texas-school-curriculum-panel-urges

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com