News & Politics

Advisory Panel Urges Texas Schools to Drop 'Heroic' From Description of Alamo Defenders

Tourists visit the historic Alamo on Thursday, March 29, 2018 in downtown San Antonio, Texas. (Alex Menendez via AP)

A panel advising the Texas State Board of Education on curriculum is recommending that the word “heroic” be dropped from study materials that describe the defenders of the Alamo.

The reason? Apparently, the panel believes that the word “heroic” is a “value-charged word.”

Dallas Morning News:

The proposed tweak to a directive about what teachers should teach about Texas history and the state’s most iconic battle infuriated several state politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who characterized the nonbinding advice as political correctness run amok.

“Stop political correctness in our schools,” Abbott, a Republican, tweeted Thursday in response to the story, first reported by Texas Monthly. “Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain.”

The outrage expressed by politicians and private citizens alike proves the adage, “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

But Barbara Stevens, president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, said the word is critical to giving Texas history its proper context.

“Words like ‘heroic’ to describe such men are indeed ‘value charged,’ and it is because anything less would be a disservice to their memories,” Stevens said. “To minimize the study of the Republic of Texas is to fail to teach a pivotal portion of the state’s history.”

Current seventh-grade social studies curriculum standards include the “siege of the Alamo and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.” The advisory committee recommended cutting the phrase “and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.”

You would think that, by definition, giving your life for a cause greater than yourself is “heroic.” Not so, says one history professor.

“Many times the Alamo gets boiled down, as it often does in movies, to the Mexicans are the bad guys and the good guys are good Anglos in coonskin caps,” Buenger said. He noted that many Mexicans fought alongside Texans in the siege.

“Part of the problem with the word heroic may be that it’s too simplistic,” he said.

But Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Innovation in Education for the free-market-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation, said it’s appropriate and necessary for educators to teach students who the good guys and bad guys are in history books.

Lindsay, a longtime college educator, said he has often referred to Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. as “heroic” in his history lessons.

In the case of the drive for Texas independence, Buenger is right. The Mexicans were not the “bad guys.”

But one Mexican was: General Santa Ana was a cruel, bloodthirsty, oppressive tyrant who marched his army across Texas looking to pacify a rebellious province. He did so, in part, by burning homesteads and murdering civilians.

So yeah, a bad guy. But I guess that’s too “value-charged” for some folks.

Revisionist history aside, what does it mean to be “heroic”? Frederick Douglas and Dr. King knowingly put their lives on the line in search of justice for all. Firefighters risk their lives rushing into burning buildings to save lives. Soldiers stand watch on godforsaken frontiers so that the folks back home can sleep at night.

Not only should sacrificing something for the greater good or for a cause greater than yourself should be taught in schools, but the “heroes” should be glorified as a lesson in “values.” We teach values in our schools because they are the linchpin of our civilization. They bind us together in mystical ways, reaching across every generation to set an example to be followed.

It is, indeed, “heroic” to knowingly sacrifice your life in service to a cause — a nation, a family, another person. Removing that word to describe the Alamo defenders is not only a slight on their memory, it’s a blatant attempt to alter history to fit a political narrative.

That cannot be allowed to happen.