State board of education members push back on proposal to use ‘involuntary resettlement’ to describe slavery


A group of Texas educators proposed to the Texas State Board of Education that slavery be taught as an “involuntary displacement” during second-grade social studies instruction, but board members asked them to reconsider the wording , according to the President of the Council of State.

“The board — with unanimous consent — has directed the task force to review this specific language,” Keven Ellis, president of the Texas State Board of Education, said in a statement late Thursday.

The task force of nine educators, including a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is one of several groups advising the state Board of Education to make changes to the curriculum. This summer, the board will review social studies education updates a year after lawmakers passed legislation to keep topics that make students ‘feel uncomfortable’ out of classrooms from Texas. The board will have a final vote on the program in November.

The suggested change surfaced late in its June 15 meeting that lasted over 12 hours. Board member Aicha Davis, a Democrat who represents Dallas and Fort Worth, raised concerns with the board, saying the wording is not a “fair representation” of the slave trade. The board, after reading the language in the suggested program, sent the working draft back for review.

“For K-2, carefully consider the language used to describe the events, particularly the term ‘involuntary resettlement,'” the state counsel wrote in its advice to the task force.

“I can’t say what their intention was, but it won’t be acceptable,” Davis told the Texas Tribune on Thursday. In 2015, Texas drew attention when it discovered a social studies textbook approved for use in the state called African slaves who were brought to the United States as “workers”.

In this case, the group proposing these sophomore curriculum revisions received a copy of Senate Bill 3, the Texas law that dictates how slavery and issues of race are taught in Texas. The law states that slavery cannot be taught as part of the true founding of the United States and that slavery was nothing more than a deviation from American values.

“They received Senate Bill 3, which must have swayed their minds, because it was a document that was given to them just before they had to do this review,” Davis said.

Ellis’ statement pointed out that slavery is not currently included in social studies instruction for second graders.

“The subject of slavery is not currently covered in the 2nd year curriculum; this work is intended to fill that gap,” he said.

Stephanie Alvarez, a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a member of the group, said she did not attend meetings when the language was developed due to personal issues, but the language was “extremely disturbing “. She would not comment further due to her role on the task force, she said.

Part of the proposed social studies curriculum standards states that students should “compare travel to America, including voluntary Irish immigration and the involuntary resettlement of Africans in the colonial era”.

Annette Gordon-Reed, a history professor at Harvard University, said using ‘involuntary resettlement’ to describe slavery threatened to blur what really happened at that time in history. . There is no reason to use the proposed language, she said.

“Young children can grasp the concept of slavery and be kidnapped,” Gordon-Reed said. “The African slave trade is unlike anything that happened or happened, the numbers and the distance.”

If language like that proposed by the group of educators in Texas is accepted and taught to children, it means the country is heading in the wrong direction, she said.

“Tell the kids the truth. They can handle it,” she said.

Texas is developing a new social studies curriculum, a process that occurs approximately every ten years to update what children should be learning in Texas’ 8,866 public schools.

This process comes as the state’s public education system has become heavily politicized, from lawmakers passing legislation on how race and slavery should be taught in schools to conservative political action committees paying big bucks to put more conservatives on school boards who promise to get rid of curricula and programs they see as divisive and making white kids feel bad.

Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have made parental rights a priority as they both seek re-election in November. Patrick also pledged to push for a “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Texas, mirroring conservative pressure in Florida to limit classroom discussions about LGBTQ people.

Last year’s SB 3 doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but the bill was designed to prevent it from being taught in high schools – even if it’s not taught in schools public K-12s of Texas. Critical Race Theory is a college-level field of study based on the idea that racism is built into legal systems and is not limited to individuals. It has become a common phrase used by conservatives to include anything about race taught or discussed in public high schools.

The task force that proposed the language change by referring to slavery is one of many groups presenting their projects to the state Board of Education, which has the final say on whether to accept or reject them.

Some drafts of new program standards are posted on the agency’s website, but that was not the case, Davis said.

“I don’t like it because it’s a personal belief. I don’t like it because it’s not rooted in truth,” she said. “We can have all the talk we want, but we have to embrace the truth for our students.”

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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