Texas legislature proposes bills to ban "woke" critical race theory in public schools

Austin, Texas – The Texas Senate and Texas House are advancing sister bills that seek to ban the instruction of critical race theory in the state's public schools.

The Confederate Soldiers Monument, erected in 1903, still stands outside the Texas State Capitol.
The Confederate Soldiers Monument, erected in 1903, still stands outside the Texas State Capitol.  © IMAGO / Danita Delimont

Both Senate Bill 2202 and House Bill 3979 bar schools from teaching that "(1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously."

But the Republican-sponsored bills go even farther than that: they actually discourage engagement in current events discussions and controversial public policy debates, the Texas Tribune reported.

If the legislation passes, public schools would be restricted from offering class credit to students who participate in civic organizations. School districts would also be unable to receive any private funding to expand their social studies curricula.

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The ban would also prohibit teachers from using donated materials from the New York Times' 1619 Project, which "aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

Texas is not the first state to propose such legislation. At the end of April, Idaho officially banned teaching critical race theory and other social justice concepts in public schools, according to NPR. The Washington Post reported that Louisiana state Rep. Ray Garofalo brought forward a similar bill, which he later retracted following criticism for his comments on "the good" of slavery.

Critics of the Texas proposals argue that their portrayal of critical race theory misses the mark considerably. Rather than assign blame to individuals based on their skin color, civic education on historical and contemporary social justice issues is intended to prepare students to contribute to a better, more equitable society.

"This unnecessary bill – like others introduced across the country – prevents schools from proactively addressing harmful acts of discrimination, ties the hands of teachers rather than supporting them, and seeks to hold students back from grappling with and helping to solve real challenges facing our society," Jonathan Feinstein, Texas state director of The Education Trust, told the Texas Tribune.

Texas legislature advances the bills despite criticism from teachers' groups

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has expressed support of SB 2202 and HB 3979, decrying critical race theory as a "so-called 'woke' philosophy."
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has expressed support of SB 2202 and HB 3979, decrying critical race theory as a "so-called 'woke' philosophy."  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Nevertheless, SB 2202 passed 18-13, with all supporters coming from white Republicans. The House Public Education Committee approved HB 3979, and the bill is expected to go for a full House vote in the coming weeks.

"Texans reject critical race theory and other so-called 'woke' philosophies that maintain that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex or that any individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive," Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement. "These divisive concepts have been inserted into curriculums around the state, but they have no place in Texas schools."

"When Texan parents send their children to school, they expect their students to learn to think critically without being forced to consume misinformation about our country’s founding and the biases of advocacy groups that seek to belittle our democracy and divide us," he continued.

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However, educational experts reject Patrick's claims, saying instead that the legislation primarily serves to hamper local teachers as well as inclusion initiatives.

The Texas Tribune quoted Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers: "The prohibitions in the bill are broad and may be interpreted in ways that limit the learning, diversity and inclusion efforts already underway in schools across Texas. The last thing we need is more overly broad 'education' legislation that will trap our state and school districts in expensive, needless litigation."

"Let teachers teach," Capo pleaded.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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