A recent Gary Trudeau “Doonesbury” cartoon shows a befuddled social studies teacher claiming – in accordance with Texas social studies standards – that secession from the United States by the Confederate States of America was primarily about so-called “states’ rights” while slavery was down the list of reasons. The clueless teacher then is confronted with a student who notes that in the Texas Declaration of Secession “the word ‘slave’ appears 18 times.” The student is subsequently scolded for using “outside sources.”
In Diversity and Education – after examining the Texas Administrative Code’s social studies standards – I concluded that
The anxiety by social conservatives over ethnic studies and multiculturalism extends to interpretations of what should be included and excluded in the public school curriculum. Representative of this trend is how the state of Texas reworded its social studies standards to reassert common culture privileging of Christianity along with more favorable impressions of patriarchy, the Confederacy, capitalism, and the military.
Additionally, the Texas Educational Standards to which a generation of youth are being subjected represents
a backlash against Islam and immigrants of color and overtly mutes a history inclusive of slavery, political gains of women, racial discrimination, labor unions, indigenous histories, and excesses of capitalism.
This rewriting of history to conform to a sanitized White Christian narrative is indicative of the challenge to Racial Truth and Reconciliation, not only in Texas but throughout nation. But hope rests with small but significant acts of teacher resistance. Kirk White, a middle school social studies teacher in Austin, explains:
Are there some things in there that don’t belong? Sure, but I hope teachers don’t buckle and interpret the language too narrowly. If we have to talk more about our so-called ‘Christian nation’ in class, then let’s talk about it— the good and the bad. A good teacher will know how to take advantage of this situation.
But it remains unclear how the world views of young people will be affected when exposed not to teachers like Kirk White but to such teachers as the one lampooned by cartoonist/satirist Gary Trudeau.