In reversal, Texas board votes to teach students about Helen Keller, Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller are back on the lesson plan after a vote by the Texas State Board of Educat...

Posted: Nov 14, 2018 12:03 PM
Updated: Nov 14, 2018 12:03 PM

Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller are back on the lesson plan after a vote by the Texas State Board of Education.

The committee voted 12-2, with one abstention, on Tuesday to continue teaching students about Clinton in high school history classes, according to State Board of Education Director Debbie Ratcliffe. The board also voted to keep Keller on the curriculum.

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The vote reverses a September preliminary decision to cut the women, along with 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and several other historical figures, from the required curriculum. The board said then that the change was intended to streamline the curriculum for its 5.4 million students at the recommendation of volunteer work groups.

The thinking was that less content would allow teachers to take deeper dives into certain topics, rather than emphasizing such things as the memorization of dates, Donna Bahorich, chairperson of the Texas State Board of Education said in a statement in September.

"Texas simply has too many learning standards, required to be taught and assessed on state assessments, for educators to cover in a year," she said.

Bahorich said that the board realizes people disagree on who is essential to include in the required curriculum.

The working groups looked at historical figures and scored them on a point system, with factors including diverse perspectives, whether they were part of a watershed moment and the impact on or for underrepresented groups.

Clinton scored a five; Keller, an advocate for the deaf and blind, a seven; and Goldwater received no points.

Evangelist Billy Graham scored a 4 on the scale, and an earlier working group recommended he be removed from the curriculum. But he was back in the final recommendation.

The proposed cuts garnered some criticism.

"If Helen Keller was an important historical figure when I was in school (and she was), then she still is today," Texas state Rep. Chris Turner tweeted Friday. "@HillaryClinton is the 1st and only woman to be the presidential nominee of a major party in U.S. history. Enough said."

What is perhaps the most famous landmark in Texas also came up for discussion. In September, the school board rejected an advisory board's recommendation that the word "heroic" not be used to describe the defenders of the Alamo against the Mexican army in 1836. The board did give final approval on a new Mexican-American studies course.

The school board will vote again on Friday to finalize the new curriculum.

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