Author of critical race theory ban says schools can teach racism

State Senator Bryan Hughes said it was never his intention to gloss over American history or negatively affect teachers and administrators.

TEXAS, United States — Over the past year, educators in Texas have struggled with a new law targeting how history and race are taught in public schools across the state.

Editorial note: The video above is taken from a related story.

Some administrators thought this meant they had to teach an opposing view of the Holocaust. For other school officials, the pressure to adhere to new restrictions on how social studies was taught was too much, and for some it was the last straw: they gave up. In one district, a black manager was placed on paid leave after being accused of teaching critical race theory, which he denied doing. He eventually reached a settlement with the district and resigned.

Today, eight months after the enactment of a law aimed at downplaying the role of slavery and racism in American history in Texas social studies classes, State Senator Bryan Hughes, R- Mineola, the author of the so-called “critical race theory law,” appeared before the State Board of Education in an effort to offer better advice on the law he helped craft.

“This bill is not an attempt to sanitize or teach our history in any way other than the truth – the good, the bad and the ugly – and those hard things that we have been through and those things that we overcame”, says Hugues. “No one is saying we don’t have systemic racism. But what we are saying is that we have made a lot of progress. We have a long way to go. But the way to get there is to come together as Americans.

RELATED: State Board of Education Members Reject Proposal to Use ‘Involuntary Resettlement’ to Describe Slavery

His testimony came as the board considered how to update the state’s social studies curriculum standards, known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. It’s a process done every eight years for the state’s 5.5 million public school students.

Drafts of the updated program are available online. Some changes being considered include adding a course on personal financial literacy and separate courses focused on Asians and Native Americans. The SBOE will have a final vote on the adoption of the drafts in November and may choose to amend them.

Hughes’ appearance before the 15-member council was the first before the group since the law came into force last December. He said the intent of the law, also known as Senate Bill 3, was to ensure that no student leaves the classroom feeling guilty for the role of their ancestors.

“We always teach that very bad things have been done by people of particular races, and it may be that by teaching those things, students feel guilty about it,” Hughes said. “What we’re saying is you don’t say, ‘Little Johnny, little Jimmy, you should feel bad about what your ancestors did. “”

Over the past year, conservative lawmakers have focused on critical race theory, an academic-level approach that examines how racism is embedded in all aspects of society. The term used by conservatives as a catch-all phrase to include anything related to race taught or discussed in public high schools, even if not taught in Texas schools.

The law — and political rhetoric — has led to calls for greater scrutiny not only of what is taught, but also what information students should have access to regarding sex, gender and race. Last year, state Rep. Matt Krause called for a survey to determine which schools had books from a list of 850 titles that primarily dealt with racial and LGBTQ issues.

RELATED: Map: Which Books Have Been Banned in Greater Houston School Districts?

SB 3 was the state’s second attempt in a year to limit how social studies classes are taught in Texas. It replaced an earlier bill, House Bill 3979, which passed in June 2021. At the time, Governor Greg Abbott said more needed to be done to “abolish” critical race theory in schools. Texas classrooms, and lawmakers got to work crafting a more restrictive measure. The result was SB 3.

Hughes supported Board of Education Chairman Keven Ellis, a Republican, when Ellis said it’s the job of the state board to determine what is taught, not the law.

Board member Aicha Davis, a Democrat, told Hughes that her law had already done damage to the public school system and questioned whether the lawmaker consulted with teachers and teacher groups before drafting. The law project.

“We always talk about teachers leaving in droves and that was one of the reasons,” Davis said. “Teachers were literally scared to teach even the TEKS that existed because of this.”

During public comment, the response to the standards proposed by the council was generally positive. There was a suggestion to change the term “internment” to “incarceration” when talking about how Japanese Americans were driven from their homes after the attack on Pearl Harbor and detained by the federal government. Some have also called for greater inclusion of Asian Americans in the Texas social studies curriculum.

“I am an American Muslim student,” said Ayaan Moledina, who testified on Monday. “Every year at school we watched the same 9/11 video. Never has one of my teachers talked about the hatred that was directed against American Muslims after 9/11. I don’t understand how it could be so controversial. Is empathy controversial? »

Over the past year there’s been some debate about whether SB 3 would affect the review process, and so far the drafts are pretty inclusive, said Chloe Latham Sikes, deputy policy director. at the Intercultural Development Research Association.

“It was a very good basis for [the board] to start adopting standards,” Sikes said.

Carisa Lopez, senior policy director of the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning watchdog group often involved in public education issues, said she likes the direction the council has taken so far. But she and others want to see if board members make any later additions before November.

Some were against the proposed program, as they considered it un-American.

“The changes I’ve seen so far, they’re anti-American and anti-Christian,” said Travis County Moms for Liberty chapter president Jackie Basinger. “Inequalities will exist as long as there are lazy people.”

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This story comes from our partners KHOU 11 News at The Texas Grandstanda nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that educates — and engages with — Texans about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.

Lola R. McClure