How should Texas high schoolers learn history?

Historians in the News
tags: education, Texas

Dr. Gene B. Preuss is an associate professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Texas Tech University and is author of To Get a Better School System: One Hundred Years of Education Reform in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2009), and co-author of A Kineno's Journey: On Family, Learning, and Public Service (Texas Tech University Press, 2016) with former U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos.  Thumbnail Image - By MamaGeek - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

After Arizona became the first to do so in 2015, 22 states now require that students pass a citizenship exam to graduate from high school. A new bill in the state legislature would have Texas join that list.

In many ways, House Bill 1776, which was passed in the Texas House, is a reaction to those old Jay Leno segments, "Jaywalking," that poked fun at how misinformed many people are about American current events, politics and history.

But the segments worried Joe Foss, a World War II hero and South Dakota governor. He saw a lack of patriotism, and he started the Joe Foss Institute in 2001 to promote national pride and civic awareness in schools.

In 2013, the institute began the Civic Education Initiative to increase civics education in the classroom and launched a campaign to promote legislation requiring students to pass 100 multiple-choice questions based on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services exam. The institute wants all 50 states to require the test.

HB 1776 would eliminate the STAAR History exam (covering U.S. History since 1877) and require instead that Texas public high school students pass the citizenship exam to graduate. One of the bill's authors, Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), states that the STAAR exam "fails to address the most fundamental aspects of American citizenry." Replacing the current exam with the citizenship test, he says, "would help students and teachers provide for local flexibility on administering the test, and most importantly, promote a more engaged and informed citizenry."

Former State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff says the bill would help overburdened history teachers focus on the essentials. ...

Read entire article at Houston Chronicle

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