<< The Body Politic

Texas and Civic Education

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

717px-Texas_State_Capitol_building-close_oblique_viewWe’ve noted before that many social studies teachers favor accountability for their subjects. Our survey, High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do, found that more than nine out of ten teachers want social studies to become part of their state’s set of standards and testing. Now, Texas educators are protesting changes to the state’s accountability system that could marginalize social studies.

Patricia Anne Hardy, who represents District 11 on the Texas State Board of Education, writes in the Houston Chronicle that if the anti-testing bill HB-5 passes, exams in world history and geography will be eliminated, “effectively canceling two-thirds of the social studies accountability program in a single stroke.” She argues:

Of all the subjects to which our students are exposed, arguably the most significant to their intellectual performance in life is we call social studies. These courses include civics, history, geography and economics. They are the courses where problem-solving, critical thinking, written and spoken expression, civic duty and an awareness of the world and its governments are learned.

…I suspect that the bright light of the anti-testing movement has blinded legislators to the damage being inflicted upon social studies. In fact, at the core of the anti-testing movement is the realization that the state has failed to use assessment as a lever for constructive educational reform. Instead, the tests have been used to punish students and teachers. Clearly, parents have had enough of punitive accountability. Perhaps the nature of Texas’ accountability system should be examined, but not at the expense of social studies.

It is true that the 21st-century world demands a great deal from our students. Nowhere is this truth more evident than in the area of civic responsibility, competent citizenship and world awareness. Future generations of Texans deserve to be competitive global citizens. It would be unforgivable to allow the social studies to be eliminated as collateral damage in a war against testing.

Read the whole thing.