Report on Race and Gender in Texas College History Courses Stirs Debate

When a report on American history classes at Texas's two public flagship universities was released this month, it quickly became clear that its sponsors were pursuing more than an intellectual exercise.

The National Association of Scholars and its Texas affiliate want the state Legislature to act on the report's recommendation that public institutions of higher learning put less emphasis in history courses on race, class and gender and more on political, diplomatic and military matters.

Critics, including some faculty members at the University of Texas and Texas A&M; University, are questioning the study's methodology and the academic credentials of one of the principal researchers. 

If last year's elections are a guide, the makeup of the Legislature could be more conservative than it has been in recent years, which could bode well for proponents of less emphasis on race, class and gender in history classes. 

Officials of the National Association of Scholars and the Texas Association of Scholars said they spent two years analyzing all textbooks and other readings for 85 sections of freshman and sophomore U.S. history courses at A&M; and UT that satisfied the state requirement. 

A total of 625 reading assignments were tallied, and after taking duplications into account, that worked out to 499 different titles. Each reading was classified into one or more of a dozen categories, including military history, political history, social history with gender emphasis, social history with racial or ethnic emphasis, religious history and so forth.

The analysis found that 78 percent of the UT faculty members teaching the courses were "high assigners" of race, class and gender readings, meaning that more than half of the content included a focus in those areas. At A&M;, 50 percent of faculty members were deemed high assigners.

Moreover, 89 percent of faculty members assigned none of the 100 "milestone documents" of U.S. history listed by the National Archives and Records Administration, the report said. Those include the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Overall, the assigned readings gave students "a less-than-comprehensive picture of U.S. history," with the situation "far more problematic" at UT than at A&M;, the report concluded.

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