Conservatives make changes to Texas curriculum

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Public school students in Texas would be required to evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty in one of a series of changes that conservatives on the State Board of Education made Thursday to new social studies guidelines.

With little discussion from Democrats on the board, conservatives also added language that would require students to discuss solvency of "long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare."

The board is making final edits to the new guidelines, with a final vote expected Friday. The board's decisions will set the standards for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million public school students for the next 10 years. The monthslong process of adopting the curriculum has made the board a lightning rod for ideological debate.

In some of the most contentious debate, the board added a reference to President Barack Obama, which critics had complained was conspicuously absent. But Democrats showed more life than they had all day when Republican David Bradley tried to refer to the first black president as Barack Hussein Obama.

"I think we give him the full honor and privilege of his full name," Bradley said.

"The intent behind what you're doing, I think is pretty obvious," said Republican Bob Craig, urging Bradley to withdraw the suggestion.

"Please Mr. Bradley, don't use the middle name," said Democrat Lawrence Allen. "You know it's going to have a negative connotation in the press. Yes, it's his birth name, but you know the significance it will play in the press. We don't have to deal with it."

Finally Bradley relented.

"To put an end to the whining I withdraw the motion," he said.

Earlier in the evening, prolonged debate came over whether to include Confederate President Jefferson Davis' inaugural address with a lesson on Abraham Lincoln's philosophical views; the board decided to require students to contrast the two views. A proposal to refer to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade" was changed to call it the "trans-Atlantic slave trade."

One of the board's most outspoken conservatives, Republican Don McLeroy, offered the amendment requiring students to evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty. He argued that efforts to "put us under world court" and to "impose the sovereignty of Americas under treaties that have been signed with these United Nations organizations" were threats to individual freedom and liberty.

Another Republican amendment dropped the study of a landmark 1949 federal court ruling that declared schools could not legally segregate Mexican American students, even though the practice remained popular in Texas for decades. But Craig successfully restored it.

The board rejected a renewed effort to include labor leader Dolores Huerta as an example of good citizenship in third-grade history classes. Huerta, who worked alongside Cesar Chavez for farmworkers' rights, was removed from the list in January amid concerns that she was affiliated with socialists. Huerta is listed in a high school history class.

The board also rejected an effort to add former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros to a fourth-grade example of notable Texans and spent prolonged time debating which Civil War battles and heroes from Texas should be added to a seventh-grade class.

The standards will be used to develop state tests and by textbook publishers that develop materials for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets.

McLeroy believes the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed after years of Democrats controlling the board.

Other proposals would tone down criticisms of the Red Scare and Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-communist hearings of the 1950s.

Educators have blasted the proposed curriculum for politicizing education. Teachers also have said the document is too long and will force students to memorize lists of names rather than thinking critically.