AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Historical figures like Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller, and Eleanor Roosevelt are all back in the Texas school curriculum after a series of preliminary votes by the State Board of Education on Tuesday.
In a meeting lasting more than 10 hours, the board members attempted to streamline the social studies curriculum in Texas based on prior recommendations, though spent much of the day adding historical figures back into state standards.
“There’s a lot of opinions about, ‘Don’t leave this person out, make sure you keep this person,’ and for good reason,” chair Donna Bahorich said during the meeting’s lunch break. “There are noteworthy figures in all of our curriculum standards. the problem is there are too many noteworthy figures.”
Many of the board members said comments from public testimony impacted their decision-making.
“Listen to the public comments,” board member Marty Rowley said as the meeting hit the nine-hour and 30-minute mark.
Along the historical figures on the chopping block, Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II. Hundreds of civilian women trained in Sweetwater, Texas, to transport aircraft and simulate missions, freeing up men for the military to send into combat.
“The WASP were clearly pioneers of their time,” Debby McCray, whose mother was a WASP, said.
“They served not only as successful pilots but were also representative of women,” she added.
The board voted to keep references to WASPs in the 2nd-grade curriculum.
Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also remain, after an initial proposal to remove her from the state standards in High School U.S. History.
“She was the first female presidential nominee from a major U.S. political party so regardless of our party affiliations I think she is an important figure to keep,” board member Erika Beltran said, introducing a motion to add Clinton back into the standard that addresses evaluating “the contributions of significant political and social leaders in the United States” that also mentions Andrew Carnegie, Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Author and activist Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to graduate college, was reinserted into the state standards Tuesday with a preliminary vote, much to the relief of Robbie Caldwell and her daughter Gabby, who is partially deaf and partially blind.
“Helen Keller is the point of reference for deaf-blindness,” she said, explaining that people can relate to her daughter more after knowing about Keller.
“Without that example, there’s no understanding for what a deaf-blind person would need,” Caldwell said. “And even the characterization of deaf-blind, they will have something different that they would probably call it if it were not for Helen Keller.”
“She is a hero,” Gabby, 17, said.
Barry Goldwater, Francis Scott Key, Oprah Winfrey, Dolores Huerta, Phillis Wheatley, Juliette Gordon Law, and Ellen Ochoa all missed the cut.
The preliminary measures will be voted on for a final vote on Friday.
Watch the entire meeting by clicking here.