Texas is now the most recent state to ban certain concepts regarding race and racism from being discussed in the public school classroom. This decision came in the face of strong objections from educators who believe the new law will make it difficult for them to teach about America’s past and present.
The bill from legislators banned the “critical race theory” in school, but it did not explicitly define or mention the concept.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation into law without fanfare, according to the Texas Legislature Online service. The law will go into effect in September.
The conservative Legislature approved the bill in the final days of session after hours of debate and procedural back and forth.
Rep. Steve Toth (R) is the bill’s author. He told his Texas House colleagues that the legislation was necessary “at a time when racial tensions are at a boiling point” and that “we don’t need to burden our kids with guilt for racial crimes they had nothing to do with.”
The legislation was called an “anti-critical race theory” bill, but it doesn’t actually contain those words. The critical race theory is an academic framework that describes racism as being embedded in U.S. policies and systems.
The new law says that teachers can’t be “compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.”
Those who oppose the new bill think it will generate fear among teachers and keep them from teaching many topics in the classroom.
“We’ll have principals in conservative communities who don’t want a backlash and will put in place blanket expectations of ‘Don’t talk about anything controversial in your classroom,’’’ said Renee Blackmon, president of the Texas Council for the Social Studies. “That way they’ll feel like they’re safe from community reproach — and then teachers are on eggshells.”
Veteran social studies teacher August Plock said the legislation could remove debate from the classroom.
He said teachers will have to consider: “Are you willing to present something, knowing that potentially you could get blowback from it? Are you willing to go there?”
Before the bill was signed, there were threats of potential legal action among civics and education groups. DISD’s Hinojosa was outspoken regarding litigation. During a May school board meeting, he made clear that district lawyers were “doing their homework” on the bill.
“I don’t like to threaten litigation very often, especially not from behind a microphone, but some of us have been talking,” he said.
Before this bill actually makes changes for the students in the classroom, the State Board of Education must incorporate them into curriculum standards.
Critical race theory has been around for decades. It is a method of legal analysis that centers on race and racism in the understanding of the country’s systems and policies.
The major points of the critical race theory are that racism is commonplace; that progress for underrepresented groups is encouraged only to the extent that changes benefit the status quo; and that concepts such as colorblindness and meritocracy are myths to be rejected.
With the heightened tension regarding race in the political climate today, the critical race theory has become a lightning rod for debate along with other concepts like diversity and inclusion efforts, anti-racism training, social justice activism or multicultural curricula.
Salandra Grice, author of The Conscious Educator, said one of the biggest misconceptions about critical race theory is that it is being taught in grade schools.
Well, now that Abbott has signed the new bill into law, this should very well keep it out of the classroom.