Texas state lawmakers capped hours of debate over how to teach kids about slavery and U.S. subjugation of people of color by advancing a controversial bill that prohibits critical theory in public and open-enrollment charter schools.
Texas Republicans led Senate approval Saturday of House Bill 3979, which requires the State Board of Education to draft new teaching curriculum standards about how slavery and racial subjugation are taught in social studies classes.
Critical race theory is the academic concept that America’s history is interwoven with racism and any study of its structures should highlight how white supremacy benefited.
GOP lawmakers said the bill only ensures students learn one race or gender is not superior to another, but some Democratic critics say it deliberately omits that white Americans created such racist institutions and laws.
State Senator Brandon Creighton joined GOP backers in supporting the bill to “focus on the ideas that make our country great,” the Texas Tribune reported Saturday.
House Bill 3979 requires history to be taught through “diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference,” with author and GOP state Representative Steve Toth saying “critical race theory” is not even referenced in the law.
“It doesn’t mention critical theory anywhere in the bill. It does not mention the three words ‘critical, race, theory’ anywhere in the bill,” Toth told KVUE-TV last week. “It simply speaks about making sure that when teachers teach, they don’t call out, nor do they speak against, people based on, based on the color of their skin nor based on their gender.”
“Do we want to talk about the Holocaust? Yes. Do we want to talk about slavery? Yes. We have to talk about all the evils of our past without blaming, without blaming white children simply because of the color of their skin … Critical race theory says, ‘I’m a white supremacist, anyone that is not a person of color is a white supremacist.’ So, basically, if everyone’s a white supremacist, then no one’s a white supremacist. That’s ridiculous,” Toth continued.
But Houston Democratic state Senator Borris Miles, a critic of the bill that is now headed back to the House for final approval, says H.B. 3979 creates glaring historical omissions by not mentioning the role of any specific race, white or Black.
“We cannot just pick and choose what we are going to teach as history and expect to change things and make things better,” Miles said. “It doesn’t work that way. This bill is eliminating and excluding some things, and including what you want to say.
One element banned in the Texas bill is The New York Times‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which begins U.S. history from the date when enslaved people first arrived on American soil. Georgia lawmakers are currently considering similar legislation, Fox 5 Atlanta reported. Idaho passed a similar “critical race theory” ban earlier this year.
“To suggest that America is so racist at its core to be irredeemable and to suggest that people based on the color of their skin can never overcome biases and can never treat each other fairly, that’s a real problem,” GOP state Senator Bryan Hughes said of the 1619 project and its role in education.
Newsweek reached out to Toth and Miles’ offices in Austin Saturday for any additional remarks about critical race theory or the pending approval of the legislation.