Notes and Documents
Texas History in the Public Schools: An Appraisal
MARGARET SWETT HENSON*
SEVENTH-GRADE STUDENTS THROUGHOUT THE STATE RETURNED TO
classes in September, 1978, and found crisp, new textbooks for the
required study of Texas history. New books are necessary about every
five years because the volumes receive hard usage and because the sub-
ject matter in history, as well as in science, becomes outdated when new
discoveries and events make old interpretations obsolete. Thus the state,
on a regular basis, approves and supplies new books for all disciplines
taught in the public schools.
Parents, taxpayers, and the public probably should exhibit more in-
terest than they do in the selection of these books; but, in the republi-
can tradition, they rely on the opinions of experts-in this case, the
opinions of teachers and the State Board of Education. The increasing
public concern for the accountability of public monies, however, sug-
gests that the process by which books arrive in Texas classrooms should
be better understood. Who writes and publishes these textbooks? How
are they chosen? Who pays for them? Is the taxpayer getting full value?
And finally, are students and teachers receiving the best instructional
Choosing new textbooks is the responsibility of the Texas Education
Agency (TEA), the state's administrative arm that supervises the public
school system. Created by the legislature in 1949, the TEA is composed
of three parts: (1) the State Board of Education (twenty-one popularly
elected members each representing a congressional district in Texas);
*Margaret Swett Henson, a native of Illinois who has taught Texas history in junior
and senior high schools in Houston, has worked with both accelerated and slow students
in multiethnic and multiracial classrooms. She has also served on local textbook commit-
tees, and now teaches at the University of Houston at Clear Lake City.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/. Accessed February 28, 2015.