Public schools across Texas adopted new social studies textbooks that feature troubling and sometimes inaccurate information within its pages. Adhering to new standards passed in 2010, over 5 million students are now learning historical inaccuracies and politically conservative propaganda within their curriculum — an issue that is not only problematic for students in middle and high school, but also for universities such as UT.
The substance within the new textbooks simply does not have any historical backing and textbook companies, such as McGraw-Hill, fail to do an appropriate job in portraying the darker times of U.S. history. They downplay the severity of slavery by referring to them as “migrant workers” and suggest that the biblical figure Moses had an influence on the constitution. Anthony Petrosino, professor of science and mathematics education and co-founder of the UTeach program, said that the textbook inaccuracies hurt everyone, including the reputation of the state, school administration and especially — the students.
“Inaccuracies hurt everyone,” Petrosino said. “But most of all, they hurt the students who are taught inaccuracies as truth and are often not taught the complementary skill of critical thinking to fully appreciate the extent of the inaccuracies they are being taught until later in life … if ever.”
This can become problematic for students in middle and high schools preparing for higher education, especially when competing against their peers nationwide. According to a study done by The Dallas Morning News, 54 percent of Texas students failed Advanced Placement tests this year, compared to the national failure rate of 43 percent. AP is concurrently used as means by many high schools to get their students to become “college-ready,” and with failure being as high as it is, the majority of Texas students just aren’t ready for college.
There is also a unique problem for the diverse student body at UT. The reality of the situation is that students come from very educationally segregated communities, where some may or may not have gotten an accurate education. And when you bring together so many people with different understandings of the world, that is when conflict starts to rise — something that is all too familiar on campus. Professor of Mexican American studies Luis Urrieta Jr. said that with UT’s diversity, many conflicts can arise with different backgrounds of education.
“At UT, [students] first encounter diverse perspectives of history,” Urrieta said. “This often causes tension in classes because they haven’t been exposed to critical perspectives and have also not been trained to question history and to have dialogues about revisionist perspectives. This issue also matters to UT because there have been attempts to silence revisionist and critical perspectives of history professors as well.”
Currently, volunteers — who do not have to be teachers or academics — are reviewing the state-issued textbooks, not to fact check but to insure they align with a “Texas curriculum.” And although there have been proposed amendments that would give power to an expert panel of academics to omit such inaccuracies, the State Board of Education recently rejected such proposal with a close 8-7 vote. Meaning that students are still left with an inaccurate teaching of history and no chance of correction in the imminent future.
Choudury is economics freshman from Dallas. Follow Choudury on Twitter @MubarratC