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  • Writer's pictureHistory Craft

Any #Texas teachers out there care to weigh in?

I finally got around to reading this piece in the Houston Chronicle. Is this still the case?  Is it getting better?  Worse?  Are you finding ways to counteract this?  Are you free to diverge from these materials in your instruction?

......... [Texas curriculum materials reflect]... a “tears in my eyes” approach to history instruction, one that emphasizes hagiography and romanticism. More than the inclusion of any particular event or figure, it is this deeply simplistic, often anti-historical approach that presents the greatest obstacle to Texas students learning how the past can inform contemporary problems and debates.

Take, for example, “the siege of the Alamo.” Practically every one of Texas’s 254 counties has schools named after David Crockett and William Travis, and students should know why. But the lesson shouldn’t focus on whether the men were brave or brazen. Rather, it should delve into why and how the battle of the Alamo was fought. Students should learn that the Alamo skirmish was produced by the relationship of Anglo Texan settlers to slavery, indigenous removal, land speculation and Mexican statehood. The factors that led to the battle also shaped when and how Texas became a state.

Yet studying the political and social movements that produced the Alamo siege is an entirely different pursuit from studying “all the heroic defenders who gave their lives there,” as state standards dictate (the teacher task force recommended dropping this language of heroism but was rejected). It may be less optimistic, but it is far more truthful, relevant and interesting. We build statues to honor heroes; we study history to pursue complex, sometimes difficult questions. Texas’s standards confuse the two, turning history into a frozen story line devoid of the necessary context.

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