The State Board of Education gave preliminary approval Friday to the creation of an African American studies course that could be offered as soon as next school year.
“We’re all proud of this course,” said Donna Bahorich, a Houston Republican, after the 15-member board voted unanimously in favor of the optional course for public high schools. “I think we’re all very excited that we have gotten to this point.”
A public comment period will be in effect for 30 days on the Texas Education Association and Texas Register websites.
If the board gives final approval of the curriculum in its April 17 meeting, the social studies course would be available in the 2020-21 school year.
Board member Aicha Davis, a Democrat from Dallas, brought together a number of stakeholders, including the Texas president of the NAACP, professors and other community leaders to ensure that the course didn’t present a “watered down” history of the African American experience.
“What we passed today is historically correct and it’s technical,” Davis said. “It’s something that schools really, really will be able to use to teach this course to kids.”
Possible curriculum topics include the histories of Africans who were brought to America as slaves, the institution of slavery and the anti-slavery movement leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights struggles and the contributions of such African Americans as Barbara Jordan, Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama.
The course will be project-based, giving students an opportunity to “learn how to advocate for themselves,” Davis said.
“I hope that students get that historical perspective, but they also have a greater appreciation and understanding about what it takes to gain your freedom and to continue to fight for equity,” Davis said.
The course is modeled after the African American studies course offered in the Dallas school district.
Texas would become the third state in the country to have adopted a statewide African American studies course, according to board member Kevin Ellis, a Republican from Lufkin.
Davis said she hopes Texas’ course can inspire other states to adopt similar courses.
The board in 2018 approved a course in Mexican-American studies, which the board voted to name, “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.”
Some Democrats on the board said not calling the course Mexican-American Studies foments divisiveness and does not accurately characterize the identities of Mexican-Americans.
Former board member David Bradley, a Beaumont Republican, argued that the name “Mexican-American Studies” could cause divisiveness.
So far, the African American studies course has yet to receive much criticism, which Davis attributed to improved communication.
“I learned from the Mexican-American studies adoption,” she said. “I utilized that when creating this course, and I kept all of my colleagues a part of it the whole way.”