Controversy over Texas textbook standards





Parents, teachers and activists lined up Wednesday for the chance to help shape the way history — topics from the Roman Empire to Texas cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash — will be taught to millions of Texas children for the next decade.

The State Board of Education began taking testimony ahead of a tentative vote later this week on new social studies curriculum standards that will serve as the framework in Texas classrooms. But, as usual in votes before the conservative-led board, the wide-reaching guidelines are full of potential ideological flashpoints.

Early quibbles over how much prominence to give civil rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall, and the inclusion of Christmas seem to have been smoothed over. Board Chairman Gail Lowe said at the start of the hearing that Christmas and activist Cesar Chavez will not be removed from the standards.

But board members are still crafting dozens of amendments to be raised for consideration before the tentative vote, expected Thursday. The 15-member board won't adopt final standards until March....

More than 130 people had signed up to testify Wednesday.

"This is the first time the State Board of Education is going to get to vote on this, so you can't take anything for granted," said Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the conservative Free Market Foundation. "I think it would be a tragedy if students talk about Martin Luther King Jr., while not being able to talk about the fact that he had a strong Christian faith. I'm hoping that's not the direction we're headed."

He'll also ask the board to reconsider mentioning makeup entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash of Addison, Texas, more often than Christopher Columbus in the curriculum standard. At present Ash is mentioned twice; Columbus once.

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