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N.Y. to revamp curriculum to show role of minorities

New York's Board of Regents committed itself Friday to revamping thestate's American history curriculum to better reflect the contributions of non-white cultures.

The board's unanimous vote directed the state education commissioner, Thomas Sobol, to prepare a detailed study of potential curriculum revisions.

Sobol, who strongly endorsed the proposal, said it could take at least two years to devise a new curriculum, which might include the design of new textbooks.

A panel of consultants, working with Education Department staff members, will be charged both with removing bias from current teaching plans and with developing a new curriculum that better recognizes the history of blacks, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans, Sobol said.

Addressing a major concern about the curriculum project, Sobol told the regents that "the revisions must be made without sacrificing historical accuracy."

"I'm not talking about rewriting facts," Sobol said. "Nobody wants to do that. But we ought to look at them from different perspectives."

The regents' meeting was spiced with examples of changes that might be made.

Walter Cooper, a regent from Rochester, said textbooks should explain that large numbers of George Washington's colonial militiamen were black.

Martin C. Barell, the board's chairman, suggested that history should make clear that Chinese railroad workers labored under slave conditions during the 19th century.

"We ought to say it like it is and not gloss everything over," Barell said.

Critics say the authors of the new curriculum may distort history by suggesting through their changes that all ethnic groups played an equal role in the country's development.

Columnist George Will called the report "affirmative action run amok."

But the regents said Friday that they would insist only that events and contributions that had been ignored be recognized.