he concept of defenders of the Alamo being heroic is engrained in the history of this state—and in the psyche of most Texans. The Alamo has been compared to the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, in which an outnumbered Greek army fended off a much larger Persian army for several days before being annihilated. But a committee streamlining the state’s history curriculum standards has removed the word “heroic” from a proposed revision of the curriculum because it is “a value-charged word.”
Last month, the advisory group, called the State Board of Education Social Studies TEKS Streamlining Work Groups and made up of educators and historians, voted to approve a final recommendation making a number of changes to the state’s history curriculum standards. The paragraph in the seventh-grade curriculum, in which Texas history is taught, currently reads as follows:
explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, William B. Travis’s letter “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” the siege of the Alamo and all the heroic defenders who gave their lives there, the Constitutional Convention of 1836, Fannin’s surrender at Goliad, and the Battle of San Jacinto.
But the committee is recommending to the state board that it delete several of these passages and add one so now the standards, if adopted, would read like this:
explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, the siege of the Alamo, the Constitutional Convention of 1836, Fannin’s surrender at Goliad, and the Battle of San Jacinto and Treaties of Velasco.
“‘Heroic’ is a value-charged word,” the group explains in recommending the elimination of the word. The group went on to explain that “all ‘defenders’ is too vague.” Similarly, the ten-person group recommends deleting the current standard that requires students be able to explain Travis letter from the Alamo. The streamline committee said the letter can be mentioned as context for lessons about the siege of the Alamo so that “teachers will spend less time on the analysis of the letter.” There are fewer than 250 words in that letter, but they go to the heart of what Texans think about themselves and about this state. Sometimes called the “Victory or Death” letter, it has been compared to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” which immortalized a British battle in its defeat by Russians in the Crimean War.