The push to eliminate discussion about race in America’s public schools is now almost as big a priority for the Republican Party as making it harder to vote. It was a big theme Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference. Former Vice President Mike Pence railed against it, as did Republican Senators Rick Scott and Ted Cruz.
GOP-led state houses around the U.S. are advancing or have already passed laws banning critical race theory from classrooms. Some of these laws are written in such vague fashion that legal challenges will almost surely be mounted. In Florida, the state’s Board of Education banned critical race theory from being taught in classrooms, despite overwhelming opposition from educations across the state. Some school districts, such as those in Palm Beach and Duval Counties, say the new rule will not change how its teachers instruct students.
But what many of these new measures being put in place around the country seem to be trying to do is prevent teachers from talking about racism and any current events or social issues considered controversial, like the murder of George Floyd last summer, for example.
HuffPost senior politics reporter Jennifer Bendery took to Twitter to take a closer look at Texas’ recently-passed law and found that the legislation doesn’t specifically “ban” critical race theory — but outlaws so many other specific topics that it makes having a legitimate discussion about race in classrooms impossible.
Here are some of the highlights from her illuminating twitter thread:
This new Texas law specifies all kinds of things relating to racism — structural, historical — that social studies teachers aren’t allowed to talk about as part of a course.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
Let’s see what they are!
The law prevents teachers from discussing discrimination based on the color of one’s skin.
Social studies teachers in Texas can no longer make it part of a course to talk about the concept — just the concept — that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
They can’t talk about the *concept* that someone could “be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race.”— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
Teachers cannot discuss the importance of slavery to the creation of the United States.
They can’t talk about the *concept* that “the advent of slavery” in the United States was central to the founding of the United States.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
They can’t talk about the *concept* that “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to” America’s founding principles.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
And they definitely can’t talk about The 1619 Project, the award-winning project launched by The New York Times Magazine that puts the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of America’s national narrative.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
Texas Democratic Rep. James Talarico told Bendery that the intention of the law is clear, even if its wording is not.
“The idea is to put in landmines so any conversation about race in the classroom would be impossible.”
Talarico almost succeeded in killing the bill because Republicans violated House procedural rules, but Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick bypassed the rules and pushed the bill through. However, that may have violated the Texas Constitution, as well as Senate rules that prohibit passing a House bill after the 135th day of a legislative session. The bill was pushed through on the 137th day. So the law is likely headed to court to determine if it was unlawfully enacted.
But Bendery also notes that as its written, the law is full of confusion and contradictions for educators. For example, this point she brings up about white supremacy as subject matter.
Here’s where things get extra confusing.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
Democrats were able to attach an amendment to the bill to require educators to teach the history of white supremacy.
How are they supposed to do that if they can’t talk about so many other aspects of racism?
Democrats were also able to amend the bill to require teachers discuss important historical figures like Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King Jr. Only how can teachers have an honest and reasoned conversation with their students about those men if they can’t mention the concept of someone “discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race”?
It’s yet another example of yet another GOP culture war salvo that was not well thought out. The casualties of this battle may turn out to be not just the students, but the teachers who may unwillingly find themselves in violation of the law, simply because they want their students to learn actual history.