Mirroring the movements of other Red State legislatures across the country, Republicans in Texas are trying to reach classrooms and limit what public school students learn about the country’s historic subjugation to people of color.
Two bills passed by the Texas Legislature would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory, an academic discipline that views race as a social construct and examines how racism has shaped legal and social systems.
Declaring critical race theory has become a common refrain among conservative Republicans across the country, but Texas law would go further by discouraging Texas students from discussing current events or controversial public policy issues.
“Texans reject critical race theory and other so-called ‘awake’ philosophies that hold that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex or that any individual, because of their race or gender. his gender is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, ”Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said last week in a statement approving the legislation. “These divisive concepts have been incorporated into state curricula, but they have no place in Texas schools.”
But educators and social justice experts see these efforts as an attack on the state’s civic education agenda at a time when students should be learning more, not less, about civic education, social justice and social justice. ‘history.
“We are paying more attention than ever to the problem of society [of civic education] and how to fix it, which is why Texas, like every other union state right now, has so many civic education bills coming up, ”said Wendy May-Dreyer, who heads Texas Civic Education Coalition. “The problem is we have a small faction trying to undo this effort, this progress, and if we miss our opportunity, the legislature won’t meet for two years, and we’ve probably completely missed the boat. “
Last week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2202, drafted by Senator Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, which prohibits teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or gender is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. “Many Texas Republicans see Critical Race Theory as a way to train students in implicit or unconscious bias, which Bill Creighton seeks to ban. He passed the upper house 18-13 , all of his white Republican supporters.
State House is set to consider SB 2202’s sister bill, HB 3979, proposed by Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, starting this week.
Teacher organizations and education advocacy groups rallied to oppose the two bills, and groups without a formal position on critical race theory, such as the Texas Civic Education Coalition, s’ oppose bills because they limit civic engagement and student learning.
In addition to discouraging teachers from discussing current events and critical race theory, SB 2202 and HB 3979 also prohibit students from receiving class credits for their participation in organizations that promote engagement and interest. civic, according to the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. And the bills would prohibit school districts from receiving private funding for opportunities such as social studies curriculum development, educational materials, and teacher training. This provision means that individual schools will not be able to accept donations or materials to teach the Project 1619 curriculum, a curriculum developed by The New York Times Magazine that focuses on critical race theory.
Many supporters of the bill focused on the popularity of banning critical race theory in Texas schools, May-Dreyer said, but few mentioned the other provisions to curtail efforts to expand the state’s civic education program.
Texas AFT, the Texas State Teachers Association, Texas Educators Vote, the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition, the Texas Council for the Social Studies, and The Education Trust have all expressed strong opposition to the bills, endorsing May-Dreyer’s arguments while going further. to defend the critical theory of races.
“These bills attempt to ignore or downplay the racism, sexism, and other injustices in the history of our state and our nation, but students should be encouraged to explore and fully understand these injustices if the Texas wants to provide a fair future for a rapidly diversifying population, ”said Clay Robison, public affairs specialist for TSTA.
In a statement to the Texas Tribune, Creighton defended his bill, saying Texas schools should focus on “traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and on l story of how our country developed to meet these ideals.
Across the country, many Republican-controlled state legislatures are considering similar bills to ban the teaching of critical race theory. Last week, Idaho became the first state to officially ban critical race theory from public schools and colleges after the governor signed the legislation, which proposed bills in Texas closely mirror.
Also last week, the Louisiana Home Education Committee discussed a similar bill drafted by State Representative Ray Garofalo. He withdrew the legislation after his colleagues criticized him for commenting on “the good” of slavery, according to the Washington Post.
“Not talking about racism and other forms of injustice won’t make them go away,” said Jonathan Feinstein, Texas state director of The Education Trust. “This unnecessary bill – like others being introduced across the country – prevents schools from proactively addressing harmful acts of discrimination, ties the hands of teachers rather than supporting them, and seeks to prevent students from grapple with and help solve the real challenges facing our society. “
With a few weeks to go until the end of this session, the battle over this bill could come to an end. Representative Harold Dutton, a black Democrat from Houston who chairs the House public education committee, referred Toth’s HB 3979 to the committee on Monday morning. Later Monday, members voted the bill out of committee for the second time with Dutton’s backing. Dutton’s office did not respond to a request for comment on why he voted for the bill. Experts said they expected the bill to hit the floor of the House at some point in the next three weeks.
“The prohibitions in the bill are broad and can be interpreted to limit the learning, diversity and inclusion efforts already underway in Texas schools,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “The last thing we need is broader ‘education’ legislation that will trap our state and our school districts in costly and unnecessary litigation. Let the teachers teach.”
Duncan Agnew is a journalist at the Texas Tribune, the only non-partisan, member-backed, digital-focused media organization that educates Texans about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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