Texas Bill attacking "critical race theory" passes in Senate

by Audrey McGovern
June 3rd, 2021

On Saturday, May 22, 2021 the Texas State Senate approved a bill that aims to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in public and open-enrollment charter schools.

The controversial passage of this bill has been met with harsh resistance from educators, school advocacy groups and senators of color, who according to The Texas Tribune, “worry it limits necessary conversation about the roles race and racism play in U.S. history.”

The bill in question, Bill 3979, was approved in an 18-13 vote split decisively across party lines, with Senate Republicans in approval and Senate Democrats in opposition. Bill 3979 is now awaiting final approval in the Texas House, where delegates, “can either accept the Senate’s changes or call for a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to iron out their differences.”

The senator responsible for the introduction of Bill 3979 is Sen. Brandon Creighton (R) who told the Texas Tribune that Texas schools should teach students, “traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and the story of how our country has risen to meet those ideals.” Essentially, Senate Republicans have stated that this bill is intended to prevent any teachings that would portray America as “inherently racist” and would cause students to apparently "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's race or sex."

Bill 3979 also included an explicit ban of the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, written by recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Jones’s work examines how history differs when U.S. history is considered to start from the date when enslaved people first arrived on American soil.

Representative Jarvis Johnson, (D) labelled Bill 3979 as “tyranny,” saying, “We have come to this body and have made the decision to tell our teachers how and what to teach. There is not one agency that has compelled a teacher to teach critical race theory, so this author literally is legislating nothing — an overreach of power.”

Bill 3979 also includes the mandate that, “teachers must explore current events from multiple positions without giving deference to any one perspective,” and prohibits the assignment of civic engagement, like lobbying or political activism, for course credit.

Many educators are outraged at the provisions within the bill and have asked how they can be expected to withhold “deference to any one perspective,” when teaching about white supremacy or racism.

Texas Bill 3979 is attempting to propagate a generation of educators who cannot engage students in debate or critical thinking about current events or motivate younger students to become involved in politics and create change. Senators in Texas are actively aiming to create an education system that erases voices from American history, and ignorantly glosses over the decades of racism that have shaped our current racial climate.