Public school school students in Texas will begin learning next year that the expansion of slavery played “the central role” in the start of the American Civil War, thanks to changes adopted by the Texas State Board of Education, according to The New York Times.
> Under the current educational standards in Texas, adopted in 2010, slavery is listed as one of several causes of the Civil War, after sectionalism and states’ rights. But after last week’s revisions, the standards will say that elementary school students should be able to identify “the central role of the expansion of slavery in causing the Civil War and other contributing factors, including sectionalism and states’ rights.” (Middle school students will be held to similar standards, though the wording is slightly different.)
> Lawrence A. Allen Jr., a Democratic member of the board, made the motion to change the language.
> “I think it’s an excellent start,” he said, according to a news report from Texas Public Radio, though he added that Texans still did not agree on the subject. “And so if we can’t drive it to a consensus in our state, we’ll just let our students look at it from all points of view.”
Though some members of the board — made up of 10 Republicans and five Democrats — thought the changes a step in the right direction, other members, along with outside groups, felt the changes did not go far enough.
> The Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based advocacy group, said in a statement that even after the revisions, the standards do not paint a full picture of civil rights movements in the United States, and they exaggerate the extent to which Christianity influenced the founding fathers.
> [Erika Beltran, a Democratic member of the board] said that Texas could do better, and that this year’s revised standards did not go far enough.
> “I don’t know that we really pushed any boundaries here,” she said. “I think it was a missed opportunity, and I don’t think that a partisan board is the right way to write standards.”
Belief that slavery was central to the Civil War might be a partisan issue today, but at the time of the conflict, the South made clear that preserving slavery was at the core of the conflict.
In 1861, the vice president of the Confederacy himself said out loud what all proponents of secession believed: that white supremacy and slavery were at the heart of the war.
> In what’s now known as the “Cornerstone Speech,” [Alexander] Stephens told a Savannah, Ga., crowd in 1861 that “our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas [as those of slavery foes]; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
> He went further: the battle over slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”