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Texas legislature considers bills that would limit discussions of race in social studies classrooms

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Texas lawmakers are considering a couple of bills that would put restrictions on the ways that social studies classes could discuss race in relation to historical figures and current affairs.

Senate Bill 2202 and its companion, House Bill 3979, would bar teachers from talking about certain topics like inherent racism or racial guilt in the classroom.

For example, the bills would specify that a class could not discuss whether a historical figure is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive” or whether someone of one race bears responsibility for the historical actions of members of that same race.

“I think the real effect would be to instill a lot of fear in teachers,” Maggie Stern, the youth civic education and engagement coordinator at Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, told KWTX.

Others fear the bills could hamper classroom discussion.

“The language in this bill creates a lot of openings for interpretations that would stifle free speech — that would stifle discussion on an issue,” Rick Beaulé, president of the Killeen Educators Association, told KWTX.

The senate bill’s author, state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said at a committee hearing last month that the bill would “promote America — and our republic — for what it is, which is the greatest country in the history of the world.”

The bills would also prohibit teachers from offering extra credit or making it part of their course curriculum for students to engage in political activism or other forms of political advocacy.

Creighton said at the hearing that teachers often promote their political agendas by encouraging students to participate in protests or other events.

“This can be seen worldwide as educators encouraging their students to strike for climate change, for instance, or in the teaching that our country is fundamentally intrinsically bad or racist or any examples that may be given,” he said.

Others, like Stephanie Gómez, the associate director of Common Cause Texas, view the bills as an overreach by state lawmakers.

“It’s literally going against any attempt to bring democracy and civic participation ... into the classroom,” she told KWTX.

The bills would also clarify that students must study certain documents by the Founding Fathers and other authors and prohibit schools from receiving private funds for developing their curricula.

“It’s frightening how close this bill is to becoming law,” Gómez said.

Senate Bill 2202 passed out of the Senate along party lines late last month.

House Bill 3979 is set for a hearing this week.

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