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After hours of heated debate on how teachers in Texas can teach schoolchildren the history of submission of people of color in the United States, the state Senate introduced early Saturday morning a new version of a controversial bill to ban critical race theory in public charter and open enrollment schools. .
Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, introduced a revised version of House Bill 3979 which also requires the State Board of Education to develop new state standards for civic education with a corresponding teacher training program to begin in the school year 2022-2023. The Senate approved the bill in an 18-13 vote against opposition from educators, school advocacy groups and senators of color who fear limiting the necessary conversation about the roles that race and racism play out in the history of the United States.
The bill is now returning to Texas House, which can either accept the Senate changes or ask for the creation of a conference committee made up of members from both houses to iron out their differences.
The Senate-approved version revives core curriculum standards students should understand, including the Declaration of Independence and Federalist documents. But it removed more than two dozen requirements to study the writings or stories of several women and people of color that had also previously been approved by the House, despite attempts by Democratic senators to reinstate some of those documents into the draft. of law.
The Senate voted to include the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 13th, 14th and 19th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and the Complexity of Texas-Mexico relations to the list of required instructions.
Yet the most controversial aspects of the bill remain, including the fact that teachers must explore current events from multiple positions without giving “deference to a particular perspective.” It also prevents students from obtaining course credit for civic engagement efforts, including lobbying for legislation or other types of political activism.
Educators, historians and school advocacy groups who fiercely oppose the bill have remained unfazed by arguments that the bill is simply about ensuring that students learn that one race or gender is not superior to another.
“Giving equal weight to all parties regarding current events would mean that El Paso’s terrorist ideology should have equal weight with the idea that racism is a mistake,” said Trinidad Gonzales, professor of history and Assistant Director of the Dual Enrollment Program at South Texas College. “That’s the problem, white supremacy would be ignored or given deference if treated. That is the problem with the bill.
Hughes denied that the bill would force teachers to give moral equivalents to perpetrators of horrific violence.
Senator Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said in a statement to the Tribune that Texas schools should focus on “traditional history, focusing on ideas that make our country a great country and about the history of our country. rose to respond to these ideals.
But Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has raised concerns in the Senate that the historical documents required in the bill only reflect the priorities of white senators.
“There were documents that were chosen, not by Hispanics, not by African Americans in this body, but by Anglos,” he said. “No contribution from us on the founding documents which should in fact be taken into account by all children in this state.”
Hughes also told members that there have been instances in various school districts where parents have raised concerns about lessons where students have been taught that one race is inherently superior to another. He reported on a specific case in the Highland Park Independent School District where parents were concerned about a book called Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness.
“We now have a teaching that we want to make it known that one race or gender is inherently superior to another, or that the individual by virtue of the individual’s race or gender is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive. whether consciously or unconsciously, ”said Hughes. “I think we agree that we don’t want this taught in schools. That is why we need this bill.
But Senator Borris Miles, D-Houston, rebutted that premise, reading a passage from the book’s author about his intention to help kids dismantle white supremacy.
“What I’m saying is we can’t just pick and choose what we’re going to teach as a story and hope to change things and improve them,” Miles said. “It doesn’t work that way. This bill eliminates and excludes certain things., And including what you mean.”
Teachers are also concerned that the legislation will change the way teachers can engage students in difficult, but important, conversations about American news that teachers often use to trace historical events.
“Kids engage and kids want to dig into your classroom when they get relevance and they have some buy-in,” said Jocelyn Foshay, a Dallas Independent School District college teacher.
The bill, which reflects legislation that made its way through state legislatures across the country, was coined the Critical Race Theory Bill, although neither the House nor the Senate versions do explicitly mention the academic discipline, which studies how race and racism have impacted social systems.
The latest version of the bill also reintroduced an explicit ban on teaching the New York Times’ Project 1619, which examines the history of the United States from the date slaves first arrived on the ground. American, marking that year the founding date of the country. This 2019 work by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize and was recently put back into national limelight after the University of North Carolina refused to grant him his tenure after criticizing his work.
“To suggest that America is so racist at its core as to be irremediable and to suggest that people based on the color of their skin can never overcome prejudice and can never treat themselves fairly is a real problem,” Hughes said of the project.
Educators are also concerned that the wording of the bill is too vague and will allow students and parents to use the legislation against them if they disagree with how they teach the history curriculum, which whatever primary sources and historical texts teachers use to support their lessons. It is also unclear who would enforce these requirements and how schools or districts would deal with these issues.
“It allows anyone to interpret it as they wish,” said Juan Carmona, a history teacher in the town of Donna in the Rio Grande Valley.
He sees this bill as a refusal to include more voices and historical perspectives in the teaching of history. In recent years, Texas has started offering Mexican American and African American Studies classes to all high school students.
Over the past year, the phrase ‘critical race theory’ has evolved into a Republican rallying cry in apparent opposition to the increase in conversations about diversity and inclusion and the unboxing of prejudice. implied.
This week, 20 state attorneys general sent a letter to US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona expressing concern over Critical Race Theory and, in particular, Project 1619. The letter says that Critical Theory de la race analyzes history through “the narrow prism of race”.
Georgina Perez, who sits on the National Board of Education, criticized the bill and its supporters, saying they are using buzzwords for political gain rather than to improve education.
“They have no idea what Critical Race Theory is, what it does, who the founders are. They’ve never read a book, let alone a paragraph in it, ”Perez said. “I understand that some white people may be uncomfortable. Well, damn it, when black people were being lynched, they sure weren’t comfortable. With Native Americans being kicked off their land and Mexican Americans shot in the middle of the night, that shit wasn’t comfortable either.
Erin Douglas contributed to this story.
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