Activists in Texas say Chavez, Marshall must be taught

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AUSTIN, Texas – Minority activists urged Texas education officials on Thursday to not minimize the importance of civil rights leaders Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall in public schools.

The State Board of Education heard testimony in a plan to update the social studies requirements for the state's 4.6 million K-12 students. Two members of a board-appointed advisory panel had suggested removing Chavez and Marshall from some grades' curriculum, triggering a strong backlash from civil rights groups, teachers and parents statewide.

"Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, white, black or Latino, we all agree on the importance of education," said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, urging the board not to downplay Chavez, who helped improve conditions for Hispanic farm workers.

Yannis Banks, spokesman for the NAACP's Texas chapter, told the board that to not include Marshall — the attorney who won the case that integrated the nation's schools and later became the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice — was an insult to his contributions.

"This board has not yet decided anything," said board chairwoman Gail Lowe, adding that no one on the board wanted to delist Chavez or Marshall. "This is our first meeting in the process."

Final standards for the 2011-12 school year won't be adopted until May and are expected to change several times before then. The standards will be used to develop state tests and will be the basis for many textbook publishers who develop material used across the country.

The standards will remain in place for the next decade, dictating what is taught in government, history and other social studies classes in public schools.

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