Education proposal in Texas would replace ‘slavery’ with ‘involuntary relocation’

·3 min read

The state attracted national attention in 2015 when it was revealed that a social studies book had been approved that described enslaved persons from the African continent as “workers.”

A working group of Texas educators wants to omit the word “slavery” from second-grade social studies instruction and instead use the phrase “involuntary relocation.”

According to The Texas Tribune, the group of nine educators submitted a proposal to the Texas State Board of Education asking it to consider the phrasing as part of its once-a-decade update to the social studies curriculum for the state’s nearly 8,900 public schools.

Classroom Adobe stock
The Texas State Board of Education is currently considering updates to the social studies curriculum in the wake of a state law passed last year that prohibits teaching topics that make students feel uncomfortable. (Adobe Stock Image)

Board members do not believe the phrase is a good idea because “involuntary relocation” is not an accurate description of the U.S. slave trade. The board sent the proposal back to the educators, asking them to “carefully examine the language used to describe events.”

Keven Ellis, chairman of the state education board, said in a statement obtained by the Tribune, “The board — with unanimous consent  — directed the work group to revisit that specific language.”

Aicha Davis, a Democrat who represents Dallas and Fort Worth, told the Tribune that she did not understand the group’s motive. “I can’t say what their intention was, but that’s not going to be acceptable,” she said.

Davis reiterated her objections to The Washington Post. “I am not going to support anything that describes the slave trade as ‘involuntary relocation’,” she said. “I’m not gonna support anything that diminishes that journey.”

Ellis noted that the group’s proposal was intended to fill a gap in the curriculum. “The topic of slavery is not currently addressed in the 2nd Grade curriculum; this work is meant to address that deficiency,” he explained to the Tribune.

Texas attracted national attention in 2015, according to the Tribune, when it was revealed that a social studies book had been approved that described enslaved persons from the African continent as “workers.”

Meanwhile, the working group also proposed that the social studies curriculum “compare journeys to America, including voluntary Irish immigration and involuntary relocation of African people during colonial times.”

Reparations
Circa 1830: A slave auction in America. (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

Davis told The Post, “The journey for the Irish folk is totally different from the journey of Africans,” adding that any comparisons “will distort a lot of things in a young child’s mind.”

In addressing the backlash the Texas education body posted a statement on Twitter, according to The Post. “As documented in the meeting minutes, the SBOE provided feedback in the meeting indicating that the working group needed to change the language related to ‘involuntary relocation’,” the statement said. “Any assertion that the SBOE is considering downplaying the role of slavery in American history is completely inaccurate.”

Annette Gordon-Reed, a history professor at Harvard University, is among the critics of the proposed language. “Young kids can grasp the concept of slavery and being kidnapped into it,” she said to the Tribune. “The African slave trade is unlike anything that had or has happened, the numbers and distance.”

“Tell children the truth. They can handle it,” Gordon-Reed added.

The state board of education is currently considering updates to the social studies curriculum in the wake of a state law passed last year that prohibits teaching topics that make students feel uncomfortable. In November, the board will make a final decision on the curriculum.

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