Critical Race Theory says racism is ingrained in American institutions – like education, government, and the media – and must be fought not only by punishing individuals, but by changing structures and policies. . But teachers in Texas point out that the language of HB 3979 focuses on individual traits and feelings, opening the door for parents to sue them based on their children’s reactions to any lesson or class discussion.
Toth said the bill did not attempt to ban classes on slavery, the Jim Crow laws or lynchings, which he said were described as “evil things” when he was at the school. ‘school.
“No one ever said, ‘Oh, you can’t teach me that, I don’t want you to teach that to my son or my daughter’ – no one ever said that, and this bill don’t say that, ”Toth said. , which is white. “This bill simply says, ‘Don’t accuse my child of being part of it. Don’t blame my child for this.
But teachers say the language makes them vulnerable to parental reactions, especially the clause prohibiting teaching that individuals should experience “psychological distress” because of their race or gender. The law does not apply to colleges or universities in Texas, but University of Texas history professor and public historian Monica Martinez said the vague language of the law worried public schools.
“Any parent could just say that my child felt embarrassed, or felt ashamed, or felt guilty,” she said.
According to teachers, the potential deterrent effect will further reduce opportunities to weave the perspectives and historical contributions of people of color.
“The more we remove the possibility of having these critical and crucial conversations, we will continue to whitewash the system that is already whitewashed,” said Shareefah Mason, master social science teacher at Zumwalt Middle School in Dallas.
In interviews and during legislative debates, lawmakers’ justifications for the new law have focused on how whites might respond to references to race. For example, Toth expressed his outrage over “Not My Idea,” a children’s book examining how power and privilege affects whites which he said was recommended to students at Highland Park schools, although the district stated that it was not being used.
But teachers say students of color already feel overwhelmed when they learn about racism through history.
David Kee, a seventh-grade Texas history teacher at Hill Country Middle School in Austin, said he teaches a unit on slavery that typically includes the screening of “Roots,” the acclaimed miniseries of the 1970s which follows a black man enslaved and abused. One year, the only black student in his predominantly white class looked up on day one and said she felt uncomfortable, and he gave her another assignment, assuring her it wasn’t a problem.
Kerry Green, who teaches US history at Sunnyvale High School, pointed out that movements to advance some Americans – like Second Wave feminism from the 1960s – ignored blacks and browns.
“And so there are all these kinds of things that history just triggers,” she said.
Angela Valenzuela, a professor of educational policy at the University of Texas, said the law perpetuates long-standing practices in the history of whitewashing in schools and ignores the lived experiences of people of color in public policies.
“It’s very focused on the feelings of white people, white children,” she said.