Five million public school students in Texas will begin using new social studies textbooks this fall based on state academic standards that barely address racial segregation. The state’s guidelines for teaching American history also do not mention the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws.
And when it comes to the Civil War, children are supposed to learn that the conflict was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” — written deliberately in that order to telegraph slavery’s secondary role in driving the conflict, according to some members of the state board of education.
Slavery was a “side issue to the Civil War,” said Pat Hardy, a Republican board member, when the board adopted the standards in 2010. “There would be those who would say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was over states’ rights.”
Slavery and the Civil War are part of the American legacy. For more than 200 years we’ve been trying to fully realize the revolutionary premise of democracy: all men are created equal. Selectively erasing pieces of our past may make it more comfortable for us today but it also makes it easier for many to ignore the historic struggles of Blacks and other minorities in this country, a struggle for equality that continues today. It is offensive to use the rebel battle flag as a symbol of a city or state but it is also offensive to pretend that Texas was never a slave state or that racism has played no role in our history for the past 150 years. The City Manager has already directed staff to identify any monuments connected with Confederate history or symbolism and I will be receiving that report shortly, after which time the appropriate staff or Council committee can consider opportunities for expanding interpretation at these sites.