Slavery played a 'central role' in the Civil War, Texas students will be taught 153 years later
“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honourable alike in what we give and what we preserve.”
Thus spoke U.S. president Abraham Lincoln in his 1862 State of the Union address, one year into the American Civil War.
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It was a war widely recognized for having been fought over the issue of slavery.
But for years, students in Texas have been taught something different — that slavery was one of a number of factors that contributed to the war, behind sectionalism and states’ rights.
That’s changing in the state after the Texas Board of Education voted on Friday to update its social studies curriculum so that it recognizes that slavery played a “central role” in the Civil War, NPR reported.
The change came after Democratic members of the board said that the curriculum should list slavery as the sole cause of the Civil War in September.
This week, however, Republicans and Democrats came to a compromise, agreeing that students be taught about “the central role of the expansion of slavery in causing sectionalism, disagreements over states’ rights and the Civil War.”
“I don’t think we have that as a consensus in our state,” said Democrat board member Lawrence Allen Jr., talking about the belief in slavery’s role as a central cause of the war.
“And so if we can’t drive it to a consensus in our state, we need to let our students look at it from all points of view.”
The change came as part of efforts to streamline the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which govern curriculum standards and set lesson plans for 5.4-million students in the state, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Earlier, the board had voted against a motion to take “states’ rights” out of the curriculum as a cause of the Civil War, reporter Lauren McGaughy tweeted on Tuesday.
Board just voted DOWN change to history curriculum to strike "states' rights" as a contributing factor to Civil War.
— Lauren McGaughy (@lmcgaughy) November 13, 2018
Republican David Bradley had said at the time, “Each state had differences and made individual decisions as to whether or not to join into the conflict, correct? I mean, that’s the definition of states’ rights.”
Slavery and its role in causing the U.S. Civil War wasn’t the only matter up for debate, however.
Also discussed was whether to keep Helen Keller and Hillary Clinton as a part of the social studies curriculum.
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The board initially voted to strike Keller, Clinton and other figures from history from the curriculum, but later voted to keep them.
Clinton is recognized in the curriculum as one of a number of “significant political and social leaders” of modern times, but teachers don’t necessarily have to instruct their students about her.
Republican board member Marty Rowley said he doesn’t agree with Clinton’s ideas but he voted to keep her in the curriculum, saying, “I have to give credit where credit is due, she is a significant political leader.”
Last year, in a Washington Post op-ed, Georgetown University Prof. John Sides wrote about how John Kelly, U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, came under fire after he said that the “lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
Sides noted that Kelly shares those views with a “substantial fraction of the broader public.”
He noted polls from 2011 that showed more Americans citing states’ rights as a cause of the Civil War than slavery.
“To many Americans, [Kelly’s] view will seem entirely conventional,” Sides wrote.