This blog on Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, K-12 education, postsecondary educational attainment, dropouts, bilingual education, immigration, school finance, environmental issues, Ethnic Studies at state and national levels. It also represents my digital footprint, of life and career, as a community-engaged scholar in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin.
We are scholars and teachers of Texas history who oppose HB 3979.
As the “oldest learned society in our state (1897),” the Texas State Historical Association continues to “bring lay and professional historians together to document and celebrate the state’s complex and diverse history,” as noted in the TSHA’s Core Values Statement. We, as historians, admire the TSHA’s commitment to our state’s rich and diverse history.
We ask that the TSHA continue this legacy and commitment to our state’s diverse history and in meeting its Mission Statement, particularly its Diversity Statement, officially renounce HB3979 for the following reasons:
As professional historians, we cannot ignore the devastating impact this bill will have on the entire educational enterprise--not only in K-12, but also in higher education. We note that the American Historical Association has condemned the bill, warning in particular that it “is likely to prohibit professional teachers from including in their courses standard content required in Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment American history courses offered at the high school level.”
Students have a right to learn an accurate account of history, including the darkest parts of our history and the long efforts for freedom and social justice. A truthful accounting of history will allow students to learn the lessons of the past to help build a more equal and inclusive future. To teach about our state’s dark chapters and its links to contemporary challenges is not to remake or re-write facts, it is about evolving interpretations that are at the heart of our historical profession. .
This bill places history and civics teachers in a professionally compromising position in the classroom. It is impossible to teach the history of Texas without discussing race, gender, religion, or injustice. That inaccurate account of history would not meet the TSHA’s Diversity Statement, “Healing through History,” that aims to “provide the histories of all underrepresented and overlooked groups as well as those whose stories are newly emerging.”
HB 3979’s broad prohibitions seek to silence any state employee “in any state agency” to speak freely about current issues that simply cannot be understood without historical facts. While the bill directly impacts public school teachers, it no doubt will have an equally harmful effect on those of us who help to train those educators to think critically about the past and our present and who then impart that knowledge on Texas youth. HB 3979 is in direct opposition to the very freedoms we in Texas claim to support. Many of us who support the TSHA do so because it represents the best in historical knowledge and breadth and we follow its lead in helping others better appreciate the richness of our state’s history and its role in shaping Texas today.
We strongly urge the TSHA to stand with educators and oppose HB 3979.