by Kathryn Lundstrom, The Texas Tribune

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott rallied his supporters on social media against the removal of defining Alamo defenders as “heroic” from social studies curriculum standards. This week, the State Board of Education tentatively voted to keep the language intact.

Seventh grade Texas social studies teachers will likely still be required to describe Alamo defenders in terms of their “heroism” and refer to William B. Travis’ letter “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” contrary to an initial recommendation of a board-appointed work group.

The State Board of Education unanimously voted to preliminarily approve the proposed revisions to the Texas social studies curriculum standards during Wednesday’s meeting, and confirmed that vote Friday. The final decision won’t happen until its next meeting in November.

The work group, a 10-person panel of teachers, educators and historians, was tasked with proposing recommendations for streamlining the social studies standards to decrease the amount of time teachers have to spend on them in the classroom.

The vote follows a series of tweets and public statements from several high-level Texas politicians urging the board to keep that language in the standards. The wave of outrage online led to a contentious meeting Tuesday, where over 60 members of the public testified in front of the board, many in support of retaining the language of heroism in describing the events at the Alamo.

Stephen Cure, a historian and member of the work group, described the uproar as a misunderstanding resulting from “faulty journalism.”

Cure said the workgroup recommended the reference to Travis’ letter be removed “because the specific reference was repetitive and unnecessary since it is impossible to teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching about the letter and its contents.” The phrase was added in 2010 during a prior revision of the social studies standards, Cure noted, and the letter had been taught in Texas schools for decades without the specific reference in curriculum standards.

The other contentious line was also a 2010 addition. The workgroup initially recommended the removal of the phrase “all the heroic defenders who gave their lives there” for similar reasons — it was repetitive, Cure said, and it calls for teachers to discuss every one of the 180-odd defenders of the Alamo.

“There was a brief discussion about the appropriateness of using the word ‘heroic’ that was based on perceptions of heroism and the inconsistent use of the term in the standards,” Cure said. The workgroup’s notes called “heroic” a “value charged” term.

Wednesday’s change restores the reference to Travis’ letter and “the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives” at the Alamo.

Those proposed changes garnered public attention after Texas Monthly published a story last week posing the question: “Should Texas schoolchildren be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘heroic’?” Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted the story, calling on Texans to contact their education board members to “stop political correctness in our schools.”

Other Texas elected officials soon followed suit, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

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