Texas Bill Banning Tenets of Critical Race Theory and Action Civics Sent to Governor

Pre-kindergarten students listen as their teacher reads a story at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Chicago Public Schools students began their return to the classroom Monday as school doors opened to thousands of pre-kindergarten and some special education students after going remote last March due to the …
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, Pool

The Texas legislature has approved a bill that would ban the teaching of concepts associated with Critical Race Theory and “action civics.”

The bill has now been sent to Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

In an interview with Yahoo News published Friday, Texas state Rep. Steve Toth (R), the primary author of House Bill 3979, said the bill is in keeping with the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This bill is a direct reflection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” Toth said. “It echoes Dr. King’s wish that we should judge people on the content of their character, not their skin.”

The bill prohibits teachers from discussing concepts related to Critical Race Theory (CRT), a Marxist philosophy that embraces the notion that all social and cultural issues should be viewed through the lens of race.

The legislation particularly bans teaching or discussing the ideas that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” or that “an individual, by virtue of the individuals’ race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”

The bill prohibits teaching that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual ’s race or sex.”

Additionally, the measure states teachers cannot be forced to discuss current events in their classes. If they do so, they must “strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

“The more people learn about critical race theory, whether Republican or Democrat, the more they oppose it,” Toth said.

In another interview with the Houston Chronicle, Toth said CRT is “about profiling our children to promote strife and anger at one another and hatred.”

The Texas lawmaker said that while the name of Critical Race Theory does not appear in the bill, what it prohibits are “prejudicial things that were outlawed in the 1964 Civil Rights movement, like discriminating against someone because of their race or sex.”

To his critics, who say the bill bans lessons on race or racism, Toth said those claims are outright false, and that teachers are free to teach about the “evil” of slavery, racism, and Jim Crow laws.

Toth said that, in fact, the legislation “encourages further discussion” into these topics.

He explained:

Where in the bill does it say we are not allowed to teach slavery? Where does it say we are not allowed to teach that Black people (were lynched)? Where does it say we are not allowed to teach that Jim Crow laws were discriminatory and hateful? Where does the bill say (teachers) cannot do (those lessons)? The bill says, ‘racism is bad,’ but what you are not allowed to do is discuss current events, then proselytize those current events into (support) for a (political) position or opinion. We also want to include the (Abraham) Lincoln and (Stephen A.) Douglas debate, which has become a model for debating and the way they undertook this discussion of freedom versus slavery (before the Civil War). (The debates were) a very in-depth, painful examination of slavery. We require that as part of the reading assignments.

HB 3979 also prohibits the teaching of the widely discredited New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which claims the true founding of America was 1619, the year the first slaves were brought to the colonies, and that the nation was founded on slavery and has been systemically racist since then.

Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said in September, the “1619 Project” is “one of the most significant attempts to propagandize history” he has seen in his lifetime.

This is “an all-hands-on-deck situation,” he warned during a National Association of Scholars web conference.

“We have seen what I believe to be a corruption of history, a distortion of history,” he asserted, adding that Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times writer who led the 1619 Project, “is using the tools of a 20th-century form of oppression, to consciously, or not, present her version of, and that of many on the left’s, version of slavery in the United States.”

“And it is nothing more than sheer propaganda,” Kirsanow emphasized.

Education policy analyst Stanley Kurtz noted at National Review Thursday that HB 3979 not only bans the core concepts of CRT from K-12 education, but also those related to “action civics,” or “protest civics,” as well.

Action or protest civics is an initiative that seeks to indoctrinate K-12 students into woke “action” political organizing, under the guise of restoring “unity.”

The bill states:

A school district, open-enrollment charter school, or teacher may not require, make part of a course, or award a grade or course credit, including extra credit, for a student ’s: (A) political activism, lobbying, or efforts to persuade members of the legislative or executive branch at the federal, state, or local level to take specific actions by direct communication; or (B) participation in any internship, practicum, or similar activity involving social or public policy advocacy.

“The practice of protest civics — mandatory student protests and lobbying after school (invariably for leftist causes) — is every bit as much a threat to K–12 schools as CRT,” Kurtz observed. “Even if every state legislature in the country were to bar CRT, the federal civics bills being considered right now in Congress could still force leftist indoctrination on the states via protest civics. That is why the passage of Texas H.B. 3979 is so important.”

Kurtz explained “protest civics” will be funded in much the same way as the Common Core State Standards – through massive education grants the federal government will dangle in front of states that will be accompanied by attached “strings” to force protest civics on school districts.

The education researcher noted there are currently four “civics” bills that have already been introduced and aim to expand federal funding for teaching this subject. However, a look closer at the measures reveals that, “as administered by Biden’s appointees, they will fund compulsory after-school protesting, along with CRT indoctrination,” Kurtz said.

“They are more like anti-civics bills than support for traditional civic education,” he added.

“Unless Republicans on the Hill begin to track and publicly attack these fast-multiplying bills, more will get through,” Kurtz warned. “That would radically reshape the educational and political playing field.”

“Instead of battles over far-left curricula in a subset of schools, entire states will be plunged into conflict over therapy to mitigate ‘Whiteness,’ and over school-sponsored political protesting by students,” he asserted.

Republican lawmakers Sen. John Cornyn (TX) and Rep. Tom Cole (OK) have both joined with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in support of the Civics Secures Democracy Act.

A national “Civics Alliance’ has formed to call upon Americans to urge Republican members of Congress to withdraw their support for this “bipartisan” legislation.

Breitbart News reached out to Cornyn’s office in May for comment on whether he plans to withdraw his support.

According to a Cornyn spokesperson:

The Biden Administration’s attempt to circumvent Congress, and more importantly local school boards, is outrageous. Senator Cornyn’s legislation actually prohibits the Biden Administration from establishing federal curriculum, like CRT. Additionally, under his bill the K-12 grants are formula grants based on Title I allocations. Therefore, CRT could not be federally implemented by the Biden Administration because these awards are not made at the discretion of the secretary. We need Sen. Cornyn’s bill to help stop the Biden Administration from doing this. The bill was first introduced under the Trump Administration, and Sen. Cornyn signed the letter led by Leader McConnell last week on this issue.

Kurtz disagreed, however:

First, Cornyn claims that his bill “actually prohibits the Biden administration from establishing federal curriculum, like CRT.” Unfortunately, this is both mistaken and misleading. It’s true that the bill includes a “rule of construction” stating that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the Secretary of Education to prescribe a civics and history curriculum.” Notice that this is not a “prohibition.” It merely says that nothing in the bill shall be construed to “authorize” the secretary of education to “prescribe” a civics and history curriculum.

Kurtz observed that “the same sort of rule was operative when Obama pressed Common Core on the states,” and “did precisely nothing to block Common Core.”

Additionally, Kurtz said Cornyn is “simply mistaken” in his assertion that his bill will prevent the Biden administration from imposing its racial justice and equity priorities.

“The Civics Secures Democracy Act explicitly … states: ‘The Secretary of Education is authorized to make grants to states, on a competitive basis, to support educational programs in civics and history . . .'” he noted.

Cornyn’s bill, Kurtz continued, allows the secretary to award the grants based on those programs he believes will best serve the needs of minority students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

While, according to Cornyn’s bill, the secretary has some discretion, the Biden education department proposed a rule in April, urging the development of “culturally responsive teaching” in American History and Civics and holding up the “1619 Project” as a model.

The education department said the proposed rule is in keeping with President Joe Biden’s executive order titled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

“Senator Cornyn’s defense of his bill is mistaken and untenable,” Kurtz asserted. “I hope he will abandon support for this bill before he hands Biden the tool he needs to force action civics and Critical Race Theory onto every school in the nation.”


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