How “heroic” were the defenders who died at the Alamo?
That’s a question that the State Board of Education will likely take up during hearings next week, as it considers recommended changes to the state’s seventh-grade history curriculum standards.
And it’s one that’s drawn attention from top state lawmakers, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who has encouraged Texans to call members of the SBOE and “stop political correctness” in how students are taught about the attack by Mexican troops.
The board’s social studies work group — a committee of approximately 100 historians and educators who applied to review the state social studies curriculum — has suggested eliminating a line in seventh-grade history standards about “all the heroic defenders who gave their lives” at the Alamo, knowing they would die while protecting the former mission.
“‘Heroic’ is a value charged word,” the committee wrote in a June draft of its recommendations, while “all defenders” is “too vague” and “too many if taught as worded.”
The committee also suggested removing the requirement that students explain William B. Travis’ letter, “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” in which the commander calls for more soldiers and ammunition.
Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for the SBOE, said the proposed changes are no more than a recommendation from an advisory group, which has been tasked with shortening the curriculum standards.
“They’re looking towards things that could be eliminated or combined with another standard,” she said, noting that the Travis letter, for instance, would not be struck entirely from seventh-grade classrooms.
“It would still be taught, but the teachers wouldn’t spend as much time having their students analyze it if it wasn’t called out separately,” Ratcliffe said.
While the board will not be taking a final vote on these and other suggestions until November, the issue has already drawn controversy among Texas politicians on social media.
SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich said on Twitter early on Friday afternoon that she does “not support deleting one of the most iconic letters in US History” from the seventh-grade curriculum standards.
Land Commissioner George P. Bush had posted his take on Twitter the day before, sharing a Texas Monthly piece about the proposed changes and calling them “politically correct nonsense.”
This politically correct nonsense is why I’ll always fight to honor the Alamo defenders’ sacrifice. His letter & the defenders’ actions must remain at the very core of TX history teaching. This is not debatable to me. https://t.co/4QADkAIZIt
— George P. Bush (@georgepbush) September 6, 2018
Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, meanwhile, both encouraged Texans to call the SBOE against the change.
Stop political correctness in our schools. Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain. @TXSBOE #txlege #tcot https://t.co/Ph9oBoBzKF
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 6, 2018
ICYMI, its time to draw a line in the sand on political correctness in our schools. Contact your @TXSBOE member before next Tuesday and tell them the word “heroic” absolutely applies to the defenders of the Alamo. #txlege #tcot https://t.co/u5b06HoGDW
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) September 7, 2018
Ratcliffe said their office had received dozens of phone calls and emails about the proposed change — most of them in opposition to it — as of midday on Friday.
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