Texas Republicans seek to expand restrictions on teaching about racism to any subject

Jul 17, 2021 by

7.16.21 – Austin American-Statesman

White kids, racism and the way privileged parenting props up an unjust  system

“Texas Republicans seek to expand restrictions on teaching about racism to any subject”

By Maria Mendez


Excerpts from this article:

[Texas] State senators are considering new legislation that would expand recently passed restrictions on social studies courses in public grade schools…

It’s the latest GOP push to restrict the teaching of critical race theory, a framework used to examine racism in colleges and universities that has become a Republican catch-all term for what some see as divisive efforts to address racism and inequity in schools.

During the regular legislative session that ended in May, Republicans rallied to pass House Bill 3979, which limits how teachers can discuss race and current events in social studies courses and bars them from awarding students course credit for social or political advocacy work.

The new law, slated to go into effect in September, says teachers may not be compelled to discuss current events or controversial topics of public policy. If they do discuss such a topic, they must explore it from “diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

But Gov. Greg Abbott called lawmakers back to the Capitol on July 8 to work on Republican priorities left pending after House Democrats’ walkout at the end of the regular session. As part of the special session agenda, Abbott asked lawmakers to continue the work started in HB 3979 [Rep. Steve Toth, primary author – https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=HB3979].

The Senate State Affairs committee, chaired by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, met Thursday to hear public comment on Senate Bill 3 (Sen. Bryan Hughes, author —  https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=871&Bill=SB3 ], a broad measure expanding HB 3979’s restrictions to any subject in grades K-12, including ethnic studies courses.

After hearing testimony from around 70 people…the committee approved it 6-1 with the only Democrat present, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, voting no.

In his call for the special session, Abbott told lawmakers to work on legislation “similar to” HB 3979 “as originally passed by the Texas Senate” during the regular legislative session. 

The Senate’s previous version of HB 3979, also introduced by Hughes, struck out amendments from House Democrats listing various underrepresented figures and civil rights movements to be required in the social studies curriculum standards set by the State Board of Education.

State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, also added an amendment to teach the United States’ history of white supremacy as “morally wrong.”

Like the Senate’s previous version of HB 3979, Hughes’ latest effort, SB 3, omits those amendments and requires teaching the founding documents and “excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.”

It would also require:

  • The transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.
  • The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.
  • The 14th Amendment, which gave former slaves citizenship and the right to vote.
  • The 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
  • The historic relationship between Texas and Mexico and “the diversity of the Hispanic population in Texas.”
  • Some civics skills such as the ability to “determine the reliability of information sources.”

It maintains a ban on the 1619 Project, an initiative from The New York Times examining the role and legacy of slavery in the founding of the United States. 

SB 3 also orders the Texas Education Commissioner to create a civics training program for educators to be reviewed by the State Board of Education annually. 

One teacher and one administrator from each school campus would be required to attend the civics training, which would focus on teaching media literacy, conducting guided discussions of current events and “simulations” of government under the new restrictions imposed…

Concerns remain about Texas curriculum

Keven Ellis, chair of the State Board of Education, told lawmakers he did not believe the bill would ban anything in the curriculum standards adopted by the [SBOE] board, including for its courses on African American and Mexican American studies. But he suggested adding an amendment to clarify that.

“We will continue to bring forward those courses and teach that history,” Ellis said of the state’s ethnic studies courses, noting the board has also called for courses focusing on Native Americans and Asian-Pacific Islanders.

SB 3 clarifies students could engage in nonpartisan, community-based projects such as work with community gardens and food banks as part of classes.

Some people, including residents from the Leander and Eanes school districts, spoke in favor of the legislation. The Leander residents cited concerns over optional books included in lists for a student book club program that they disliked. [Note:  These parents want more classical literature taught rather than books filled with questionable sexual content.]

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