A Texas lawmaker wants to promote “patriotic education” across the state.
So Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) filed legislation Monday that would establish the 1836 Project, a committee “to promote patriotic education and increase awareness of the Texas values that continue to stimulate boundless prosperity across this state.”
The effort evokes the 1776 Commission pitched by former President Donald Trump, who called for a “pro-American curriculum” during his unsuccessful reelection bid.
Trump pushed for the 1776 Commission after The New York Times’ 1619 Project — named for the year in which the first enslaved Africans were brought to the Virginia colony — that sought to reframe American history around slavery’s consequences and the contributions of Black people. It’s been incorporated into some schools’ social studies lessons as educators help students grapple with the country’s legacy of racism.
But it triggered a firestorm among conservatives, including Trump, who said it taught children that America was “founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.”
Parker insists his legislation is unrelated and is “exclusively about celebrating Texas.”
His project is named in commemoration of the year Texas gained its independence from Mexico and was filed just before the state’s Independence Day.
“Throughout recent years, we have witnessed the destruction of historical monuments as many attempt to rewrite the past,” Parker said in a news release. “Many of our children are taught to denounce Texas history and do not understand what it means to be a virtuous citizen.”
Asked to elaborate on such instances in an interview, Parker said the bill was more about being “proactive” and protecting Texas history.
Many jurisdictions across the country have taken steps to remove statues honoring Confederate figures, slave owners and those who upheld racist policies. After George Floyd’s death in police custody sparked a national movement, that issue took on new urgency for many people.
The 1836 Project would seek to raise awareness about key events in the state’s history, including the Texas War for Independence, the annexation of Texas by the United States and Juneteenth, which commemorates the day in 1865 that federal troops landed in Galveston to inform enslaved people of their freedom.
The committee would create a pamphlet — to be handed out along with a driver’s license — describing that history and the way Texas fosters “liberty and freedom for businesses and families.”
The committee would also be empowered to craft other reports, which Parker would want published on the Texas Education Agency’s website.
Amanda Vickery, a social studies and race in education professor at the University of North Texas, questioned the decision to zero in on 1836, which she said erases the Indigenous communities who were already in the state.
“It’s about reasserting whiteness and focusing on when white people ‘founded’ this state,” she said.
She also questioned who would serve on such a commission and whether they would have appropriate credentials. Parker’s bill states that the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House would each appoint three members.
“It’s clearly going to be a political commission,” Vickery said.
Parker said his bill was not about politics but “is about making certain we protect our history and share it with future generations.”
Richard McCaslin, a University of North Texas professor of Texas history, said the three men selecting committee members are “from one party, one political perspective and one demographic.” That makes him question what principles they will choose to focus on for the commission.
Texas history already is baked into the social studies standards set by the state education board.
In elementary school, students are expected to learn about patriotic symbols and customs. They are supposed to be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States and the Pledge to the Texas Flag. In fourth grade, their history classes delve into “the history of Texas from the early beginnings to the present,” according to state standards.
They return to the subject with more depth in seventh grade, diving into major historical events that shaped Texas.
Parker said his bill goes a step further. It calls for the committee to advise state agencies on how to ensure “patriotic education is provided to the public” at state parks, museums and landmarks.
“Civic education should not be limited to the classroom,” he said.
While Gov. Greg Abbott was not involved with crafting this bill, he made bolstering civics curriculum a legislative priority for the session
The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, The Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.
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