Texas education curriculum doesn't include Jim Crow laws, textbooks do

Texas textbooks are in the national spotlight again, after critics pointed out the state curriculum standards don’t require the teaching of the Jim Crow laws.

In 2010, the Texas Education Board voted to rewrite textbooks with a heavier conservative focus.

On Wednesday, the chair of the Texas Education Board admitted there were some missteps in the state's curriculum standard and said that can happen when you have to list out every event in history that you want students to learn about.

Now, the new textbooks are here, and they'll be used across public schools in Texas in the coming fall. Critics point out the new curriculum standards used to write the textbooks downplay slavery and don’t require the teaching of Jim Crow laws.

One portion of the curriculum lists the reasons behind the civil war as sectionalism, states' rights and slavery, in that order.Critics said that specific order whitewashes history, but the chair of the state education board, who joined after the standards were revised, said to remember the standards and textbooks are separate things.

“There are some things that I think were accurately pointed out that were not in our standards -- Jim Crow laws and Ku Klux Klan -- typical things you’d expect to see, but when it comes to the books themselves that'll be hitting classrooms in the fall, all of that and more are in those books,” Donna Bahorich, the chair of the Texas State Board of Education.

The standards do include covering the history of slavery, black leaders, and the civil rights movement.

The curriculum provides the least of what the textbooks have to cover, but that’s not to say the textbooks don’t cover Jim Crow laws. We just don't know how much emphasis the textbooks give to the topics.

Mcgraw-Hill, one of the publishers of the new textbooks, says they actually do mention Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan but didn't comment directly on whether they presented states' rights as the main reason for the Civil War.

Pearson Education, another publisher, does have a section on Jim Crow and clarified in a statement: “…our current titles for Texas middle and high school students clearly state that the Southern states' desire to preserve slavery was the primary reason for secession. Pearson texts do not claim that states' rights were the primary reason for secession."

The textbooks will be out in the fall, and the board says all parents should read them through and decide for themselves.

“I really encourage parents to go down to the school, check all those materials out, and let the school know if there's something you're concerned about,” said Bahorich.

Bahorich also said these new textbooks were vetted by hundreds of people, including members of the public.