AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — The Texas Senate passed a bill early Saturday morning that would ban schools from requiring teachers to discuss polarizing current events or social issues in class. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
One of those subjects is critical race theory, a relatively new concept that looks at how race relations have shaped the current social, cultural and legal world around us. The Texas House passed the bill on May 11, but will have to approve it again due to changes made by the Senate.
House Bill 3979 would also require teachers who choose to discuss those issues with students to include viewpoints “from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
Educators opposed to the bill say kids seek out clarity on current events from instructors, who they view as a trusted source of information. If passed, it would stop teachers from pushing their students to think critically about the world.
“Just the fear of that alone is going to prevent teachers from really delving into a lot of these topics,” Round Rock ISD Instructional Coach Meghan Dougherty said in an interview with KXAN earlier this month. “It’s not that teachers are trying to indoctrinate students, it’s that they are trying to help students understand these issues, help them understand the different perspectives and facilitate positive, productive conversations in the classroom around these issues.”
The Association of Professional Educators also opposed the bill.
“By telling teachers what and how to teach and ordering the (Texas Education Agency) to play police, HB 3979 may be one of the most disrespectful bills to teachers I’ve seen the (Texas Legislature) dignify with debate,” Mark Wiggins, an ATPE lobbyist, wrote on Twitter. “Teachers will remember come November.”
Lawmakers supporting the bill say teachers should be teaching history and not indoctrinating students with their beliefs.
Texas Public Policy Foundation, which supports the bill, says the foundation of a child’s social studies curriculum should be based on the original documents which created the American standards for life, liberty and democracy, such as the Declaration of Independence, American Constitution and Federalist Papers.
“When parents send their children to school, they want their students to learn critical thinking without being indoctrinated with misinformation charging that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism,” said a statement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He congratulated the bill’s authors as well Saturday.