The resulting standards were so flawed that even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute blasted them. The institute’s scorching 2011 review of state US history standards characterized the Texas standards as “a politicized distortion of history.” Among other things, noted the report, the standards offered an “uncritical celebration of ‘the free enterprise system and its benefits,’” completely overlooked Native Americans, downplayed slavery, barely mentioned the Black Codes or Jim Crow, and dismissed the separation of church and state as a constitutional principle.
But beyond politics, the 2010 process created problems for teachers in the classroom. The standards posed an instructional challenge because, says Quinn, they became “long and unwieldy.”
…What’s happening in Texas, says Gonzales, is a “classic content-versus-skills debate”—teachers would like more class time focusing on teaching such skills as historical thinking, but there is little consensus on how to assess them. Content knowledge, conversely, is easily measured and therefore remains in place, despite its many flaws. Most teachers inevitably find themselves teaching to the test. But as Calder and Steffes write, “The problem with including content knowledge as a goal for assessment is the question of which knowledge to test.” This is one reason why it has become impossible in Texas to separate politics from history education.