Texas Ed Board Votes to Keep ‘Heroic’ Alamo Defenders in History Lessons

Dawn at the Alamo, a painting that hangs in the Texas Capitol, depicts the artist's rendition of the events of the morning of March 6, 1836. (Image/Public Domain)
Dawn at the Alamo - Public Domain

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) approved Friday their unanimous decision to continue to describe the “heroism” of Alamo defenders and teach the William B. Travis letter “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” also known as “Victory or Death” in seventh grade social studies lessons.

The stamp of approval affirmed the full board’s 15-0 vote on Wednesday to keep this vital Texas history in the standards.

This followed an uproar that ensued after the Texas Monthly reported last week that a work group appointed by the SBOE and tasked to “streamline” social studies standards recommended the board strike the Travis letter and remove descriptors of Alamo defenders as “heroic” when explaining the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution. The article posed, “Should Texas schoolchildren be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘heroic?'” It drew immediate criticism from Governor Greg Abbott and General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner George P. Bush.

“From the beginning of the controversy, I have had every confidence in my fellow board members that we would restore the Travis letter and heroism description,” said SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich, who spoke to Breitbart Texas by email after the board’s vote on Wednesday. “By voting unanimously, that confidence was well placed.”

Bahorich added, “The world famous, inspirational ‘victory or death’ letter by Travis and the heroism of the defenders of the Alamo will continue to be required context for our seventh grade Texas students.”

On Tuesday, the SBOE heard public testimony from others concerned over the work group’s recommendation including U.S. Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). He read the Travis letter and said he could not see how to tell the story of Texas without the letter which is “as much a part of who we are” as the “core and soul of freedom.”

Texas historian Stephen Cure, a member of the streamlining work group, later blasted the media for “faulty journalism” because of the hype and frenzy that erupted on this topic without any news outlets “speaking to anyone in the work group” for comment. He explained the reason the group recommended removing the Travis letter was because the reference to it was “repetitive.” He said it was “impossible to teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching about the letter and its contents.”

According to Cure, language calling for the reading of the Travis letter was added as a 2010 revision to the social studies standards. He said the letter has been taught in Texas schools for years even without a specific reference to it in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state’s standards.

Cure again cited “repetitiveness” as a reason why the work group proposed removing the phrase “all the heroic defenders who gave their lives.” He said this language required teachers to discuss every one of the nearly 200 defenders of the Alamo. He noted the group discussed the word “heroic” and its appropriateness as a word “based on perceptions of heroism.” In their notes, the streamlining work group dubbed it a “value-charged” term.

During his testimony, Cure suggested an alternative:

Explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, the siege of the Alamo, including William B. Travis’s letter ‘To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” and the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there, the Constitutional Convention of 1836, Fannin’s surrender at Goliad, the Battle of San Jacinto, and the Treaties of Velasco.

This version of the standard put events in chronology, he said, reinstated the Travis letter, and showed support for all of the “diverse groups” of heroic people who were Alamo defenders.

On Wednesday, the SBOE discussed Cure’s suggestion, which was generally well received. The board, though, agreed in a 5-4 vote, to remove the Treaty of Velasco until they could determine if it was included in the original seventh grade social studies standard or if the TEKS streamlining group added it. The work group was prohibited from adding new content.

The SBOE revision read:

Explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, the siege of the Alamo, William B. Travis’s letter “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” and the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there; the Constitutional Convention of 1836, Fannin’s surrender at Goliad, and the Battle of San Jacinto.

Bahorich called for a record board vote on this standard. Following the vote, she stated, “Let it be said to all those listening in, this was a unanimous vote to restore Travis’ letter as well as the “heroism” of the diverse defenders of the Alamo.”

The SBOE will hold a second reading for the approved social studies standards in November.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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