HB 3979

Texas is now one of three states with a law limiting the teaching of critical race theory in a K-12 public school classroom.  HB 3979 was signed on June 15 by Governor Abbott, and it dictates how Texas teachers can speak on current events and our national history of racism.

The law goes into effect September, 1, 2021, and it includes a list of documents that must be taught to students in Texas.  There are positives within the bill, such as the inclusion of the study of original documents written by women and people of color and certain historical ideas like white supremacy, eugenics, slavery, and the KKK within the curriculum.

This bill is preceded by former President Trump banning any federal training that includes critical race theory or notions of white privilege.  Several versions of HB 3979 floated in the Texas legislature over the last few months, and though the final version includes input from Democrats within the chambers, it is still largely opposed by educators and advocacy groups for dictating the manner in which current events are (or are not) taught and for limiting conversations about racism in America.

Furthermore, HB 3979 prohibits students from political activism or lobbying if it is tied to credit within the classroom, and it also explicitly bans teaching the 1619 Project by The New York Times.

While it certainly has its opponents, the bill is also supported by some who feel that critical race theory in a K-12 classroom unfairly maligns white people and vilifies certain American historical figures.

Civics, history, and other social studies content is ripe for conflict as America reckons with its past and its evolving societal culture.  We should expect more dialogue on this topic from our leaders and the media (even if such a dialogue is banned within the classroom), and Governor Abbott has already alluded to more legislation on critical race theory appearing in an upcoming special session of the Texas legislature.

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