BY ARIS FOLLEY
The Texas state Senate has passed legislation that would repeal requirements to teach the history of white supremacy and the ways “in which it is morally wrong,” among other lessons pertaining to prominent people of color and women.
The legislation now awaits consideration in the House, also led by Republicans, where Democratic lawmakers left earlier this month to deny their colleagues on the other side of the aisle the quorum necessary for a special legislative session in an effort to block a sweeping elections bill.
The bill recently passed by the upper chamber seeks to repeal certain teaching requirements that were included in legislation passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in June.
The law was praised by Abbott and other proponents as an attack on critical race theory, though the legislation doesn’t outright name the concept, which asserts that racism is embedded in the country’s institutions.
However, among other provisions laid out in that bill, House Bill 3979, was a section requiring students be equipped with the understanding of “historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations.”
That section included “the Chicano movement,” “women’s suffrage and equal rights,” “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech, “the history and importance of the women’s suffrage movement” and “the works of Susan B. Anthony,” among other requirements.
But none of those requirements are mentioned in the new bill passed by the Senate last week, which would still keep in place previous language outlining how race can be discussed in classrooms but would repeal a chunk of the section in question from House Bill 3979.
It instead includes more vague provisions requiring students learn about “the history and importance of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964,” as well as the “Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
It would also take out a portion of the earlier bill requiring students be taught “about the writings of and about the founding fathers and mothers and other founding persons of the United States,” which included the writings of women like Sally Hemings and Ona Judge, with the new bill requiring instruction cover “the writings of the founding fathers of the United States.”
The bill adds teachers shall strive to the “best” of their ability to explore aforementioned topics “from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
“What we’re doing with this bill, we’re saying that specific reading list doesn’t belong in statute,” state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), the bill’s author, said in a statement to Bloomberg Law about the measure.
He told the outlet that the state’s Board of Education should be tasked with ensuring those kinds of items are included in its standards.
“Not just politicians but teachers and parents and administrators have a say in that process,” Hughes continued.
The bill still includes a section barring teachers from requiring “an understanding” of the New York Times’s 1619 Project and said they “may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.”
According to The Texas Tribune, Democrats in the state House were behind a number of the provisions in the earlier bill requiring the teachings of the historical contributions of prominent people of color and women.
The new bill has already garnered pushback from Democratic lawmakers, including state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who slammed the measure as an attempt to tie “the hands of our teachers.”
“How could a teacher possibly discuss slavery, the Holocaust, or the mass shootings at the Walmart in El Paso or at the Sutherland Springs church in my district without giving deference to any one perspective?” she said, according to Bloomberg.