87th Texas Legislature

House Could Vote Soon on Bill That Would Impact How Current Events Are Taught in Schools

Part of the legislation could affect the social studies curriculum.

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A bill that would impact the way educators teach social studies and how they explain current events could be on the Texas House floor as early as this week.

House Bill 3979, authored by Texas Rep. Steve Toth (R-Spring), would direct the State Board of Education to develop a social studies curriculum focused on the "foundations of the American experiment in self-government," civic engagement, the nations founding documents, among other things.

"We want history taught. We do want all of the painful, sinful side of history where we've made tragic mistakes not only in slavery, but in Jim Crow," Toth said. "But what we don't want, is we don't want teachers having that on the heads of kindergarten, first, third, fourth graders or even seniors in high school. They're not at fault for what happened in prior generations and that's what CRT tries to do."

CRT stands for critical race theory. According to Purdue University, critical race theory scholarship shows how racism continues to be persuasive and why it denies individuals their constitutional rights.

There are other key items in the bill, including addressing social studies classes in which a teacher might feel inclined to discuss current events. If a teacher does talk about the news of the day, the discussion must include diverse sources and contending perspectives, according to the bill. Schools would not be permitted to require or give credit, to students who take part in activities considered political activism, like lobbying for specific issues.

“We don’t want our children being used as useful pawns by Republicans or Democrats to be activists,” Toth said.

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) had a different perspective on the bill.

“Again, looking for a solution to a non-existent problem,” he said.

West voted against similar legislation already passed in the Senate.

“Leave the teaching profession alone. We shouldn’t be trying to use Trumpism in order to quote-unquote figure out what students need to be taught. Teachers are doing a good job in this particular area,” West said.

It is now up to the House to decide on the bill with just a few weeks left in the legislative session.

Educators have raised concerns about this education bill and others. Part of a statement from Wendy May-Dreyer from Texas Civic Education Coalition says, "They strip teachers of needed training and quash their ability to teach current events and necessary 21st-century skills like media literacy. And worse, these bills prevent students from 'social and public policy' projects such as community garden building, clothing and food drives."

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