Texas History Standards Got You Feeling Blue?

2010 March 18

It’s been all over the news, history blogs, and education sites that the Texas State School Board recently approved changes to its U.S. history standards that inject conservative political and social values, canonize Republican leadership, and downplay the contributions of minorities, women, workers, and secularists.  (Because Texas is one of the largest markets for textbooks, it is widely expected that these views will now be present in student materials all over the country.)  Among other well-documented changes, one of the more cynical moves of conservative school board members was to downplay the significance of the post-war black freedom struggle in favor of more discussion of Reconstruction, when the Republican Party could claim to be the champions of African Americans’ civil rights.

Freedom's Unfinished Revolution

Now seems like a good time to put in a plug for the American Social History Project’s text Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: An Inquiry into the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Freedom’s Unfinished, as we call it around here, covers “slavery, war, and freedom” during the 1860s and 1870s.  The book is written specifically for a high-school audience, with shorter narrative passages and a more accessible reading level than Who Built America?.  More so than other history textbooks, Freedom’s Unfinished relies on dozens of primary resource documents and images and inquiry-based teaching strategies to help students probe conflicting viewpoints and the task of historians to craft an interpretation.

In addition to the other merits we think Freedom’s Unfinished has, the book centralizes the efforts of African Americans to secure their own liberty and rights of citizenship.  This rather than rely on or wait for the Republican Party or any other white politicians and reformers to do so.  The book also documents how the Republican Party gradually abandoned the cause of black civil rights in the late 1860s and 1870s, in favor of expanding business interests in a pacified South.  Using this book in your classroom would thus be a nice way to thwart the intentions of the Texas School Board!

And in case you missed it: Eric Foner, who wrote the Preface to Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution, recently gamely appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss the Texas history standards debacle.

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