Texas is flooded with bills from Republican lawmakers seeking to prevent teachers from teaching an honest and accurate account of the state’s racist past in its schools.
One of the proposed bills, House Bill 3979, would prevent teachers from discussing current events with students. Restricting discussions about current events prevents students from understanding how history is relative to current and future events. The bills attempt to downplay its racist past by limiting discussion about how racism has shaped our society, especially politically.
The bill also prohibits students from being eligible to earn extra credit or credit for volunteer hours spent doing civic activism. This discourages students from being civically and politically active which is essential to ensure a democracy in which citizens can participate in.
Similar bills seek to ban the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 project, which teaches U.S. History through studying the consequences of slavery and the successes of Black Americans. Essentially in attempting to ban this project, Republican lawmakers are trying to shield white students from learning about how bad racism was in American history which will only enable them to repeat the same mistakes.
History isn’t subjective and shouldn’t be influenced by political beliefs, it should be told in full truth to allow students to form their own educated opinions. With these bills, Texan lawmakers are trying to limit free speech and thought by retelling history to align with their own political beliefs.
The worst part of these bills is that they are trying to promote a historical narrative that excludes the 70% of Texans under 18 who are students of color. By telling Texas’s history without acknowledging it’s prominent role in promoting slavery and murdering indiegenous people, it excludes a narrative that the majority of students identify with as people of color.
A bill recently passed in the Texas state House of Representatives for the Texas 1836 project would allow the governor to appoint nine people to a committee “to promote patriotic education and increase awareness of the Texas values that continue to stimulate boundless prosperity across this state.” While qualified candidates without political agendas would serve well on the committee, it remains a decision to be decided by the state’s Republican governor and House Speaker who have their own agendas to promote.
It’s no surprise these bills are proposed after recent Black Lives Matter protests have brought awareness to the systematic killing of people of color by white police officers. Because recent events prove systematic racism still exist in America, lawmakers hope that these bills will downplay the severity of slavery and racism in history to prevent white and POC students from understanding how racism is still embedded in American society. Oppressing teacher’s and student’s right to free speech in the classroom ensures power for those who benefit from systemic racism in America.