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Texas Senate Passes Bill Removing MLK, Suffrage From Required Curriculum

The bill also removes requirements to teach that white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan are “morally wrong.”

People walk through the rotunda of the Texas State Capitol on the first day of the 87th Legislative Special Session on July 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas.

State senators in Texas passed a bill on Friday that removes requirements that schools include topics like Native American history and historical documents relating to the suffrage and civil rights movements, building upon previously passed legislation in the state.

The bill, SB 3, removes requirements to teach about civil rights work by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass. Works by women’s suffragists are also no longer required to be taught.

The Republicans’ bill also removes requirements to teach “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.”

On top of removing requirements to teach about the civil rights and suffragist movements, the bill bars schools from compelling teachers to teach on current events or controversial issues. If they do teach such subjects, the teachers must not give deference to any one point of view.

Though the bill passed the Senate 18 to 4 along party lines, it’s unlikely to pass the House as the Democrats have fled the state to deny quorum in that chamber in hopes of blocking the Republicans’ voter suppression legislation.

SB 3 is a continuation of the state GOP’s efforts to stifle teachers from teaching history accurately, especially as it pertains to the country’s history with racism and white supremacy. The bill removes requirements set by a previous House bill on similar subjects that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law earlier this year. The requirements were Democratic proposals that were included in the bill after criticism from Democrats and educators in the state.

Democrats have criticized the law, saying that it muzzles teachers from teaching their students the truth about history.

“How could a teacher possibly discuss slavery, the Holocaust or the mass shootings at the Walmart in El Paso or at the Sutherland Springs Church in my district without giving deference to any one perspective?” one Democratic lawmaker asked, per Dallas News.

“The amendments the House added were essential to ensure that we were teaching students all of American history — the good, the bad and the ugly,” state Democratic Rep. James Talarico told the Texas Tribune. “They were put in place to ensure that teachers wouldn’t be punished for telling their students the truth…. It’s a frightening dystopian future that starts to come into focus.”

Texas Republicans, like many other conservatives across the country, claim that they are opposing the teaching of critical race theory. But in reality, they’re likely setting out to erase Black history from the nation’s collective knowledge and make teachers afraid to create lesson plans addressing race.

The wave of anti-education Republican legislation has already had a chilling effect on teachers, leading them to censor themselves from talking about racism. Some teachers are quitting because of attacks from conservatives accusing them of teaching critical race theory, which is only taught in certain higher education contexts.

Republicans have made critical race theory their new boogeyman despite either not understanding what it is or wilfully misrepresenting it, as also where it is taught. Indeed, Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who introduced SB 3, has admitted that schools don’t actually teach critical race theory, but wanted to press forward with his bill anyway.

As Republicans are sweeping the country with stifling bills under the guise of limiting critical race theory, Democrats and progressives in Congress have criticized the effort.

“The Texas Senate has voted to remove civil rights and women’s suffrage from public school curriculum,” wrote Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) on Twitter. “It was never about Critical Race Theory. It was always about teaching white supremacy.”

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