Next Wednesday, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is hearing testimony on Social Studies TEKS standards (Item 10), the very ones that attach to the extremist move against the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory (CRT) which we know is not actually taught in K-12 schools. Regardless, this law that the SBOE now has to interpret and implement—risks creating a chilling effect for K-12 teachers on the teaching of race in the schools.
Please read this change.org petition below and consider signing it as a statement against censorship that Senate Bill 3—Texas' anti-CRT bill—represents. We support instead teaching that is honest, hopeful, and healing: https://www.change.org/p/in-favor-of-necessary-truth-and-against-the-nonsense-of-censorship?signed=true (Note: copy and paste link in your browser if this link doesn't work.)
Also, if you're in the Austin area next Wednesday when the item will get heard, consider the following additional possible actions
- Attend our press conference against censorship at 10:30AM next Wednesday in the inside foyer of the William B. Travis State Office Building—home to the Texas Education Agency—at 1701 North Congress Ave., Austin, Texas, located across the street from the Bullock History Museum Building.
- Sign up TODAY to testify on Item 10 of the TSBOE that focuses on the social studies TEKS. Agenda: https://tea.texas.gov/node/358496
- Sign up here TODAY to testify: https://tea.texas.gov/about-tea/leadership/state-board-of-education/sboe-meetings/public-testimony-registration
In Favor of Necessary Truth and Against the Nonsense of Censorship
National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Texas Chapter
“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” — Benjamin Franklin
“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." — Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
A very old enemy—CENSORSHIP—raises its ugly head as educators across the country have been advocating for an expanded public school curriculum that includes under-represented groups like Mexican Americans, African Americans, Indigenous communities, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and women. The Texas Legislature’s House Bill 3979 and Senate Bill 3—the latter signed by the governor—have given new life to CENSORSHIP by questioning the teaching of race in our schools and outlawing the 1619 Project, a reasonable proposal to incorporate a broader understanding of African American history into U.S. history. The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will now consider implementing the misdirected will of the Texas Legislature and giving new life to CENSORSHIP.
The problem is that the bills—and now the law—call for CENSORSHIP with the baseless argument of reverse discrimination that accuses our schools of knowingly and purposefully making White youth feel responsible for the racial “sins of their fathers.” The SBOE is now being called to embrace hateful CENSORSHIP and, in the process, discard two of its bedrock principles, that verifiable and trustworthy history serves as the foundation for our state’s standard curriculum; and that teacher training and certification programs as well as tested ethical principles in the profession and the ongoing oversight work of the SBOE assure the proper social-emotional development of all youth. The directive from the Legislature and the Governor’s office, in other words, not only proposes to CENSOR the teaching of subjects related to race; it also questions the integrity of public servants in the SBOE and the good judgment of well over 300,000 professional teachers in Texas.
The members of the SBOE and the general public should consider the legislative intent endorsed by the bills and the governor who signed SB3. According to State Representative Steve Toth, the author of the initial bill, the teaching of race and the 1619 Project cause “hateful classroom activities and a racially discriminatory curriculum” (Toth: Letter to members of the Texas House of Representatives, May 7, 2021). In his letter to fellow legislators, Toth offered as evidence one single children’s book that teachers from the Dallas Highland Park School District supposedly recommended to some of their students. Never mind that the book, Not My Idea; A Book about Whiteness (by Anastasia Higginbotham) represents a single reading recommendation, that an undetermined number—possibly one or a few—made. Whoever these teachers in question are, their recommendation arguably carries more weight than Mr. Toth who found its contents inappropriate for use in Texas classrooms (Consult the following site for a different view of the book, https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=not+my+idea+video).
Mr. Toth adds insult to injury when he makes the unfounded and specious association of a growing rate of suicide among White youth with the teaching of race. He warns that suicide among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has “exploded” from .9 to 2 per hundred thousand between 2010 and 2021. Aside from failing to demonstrate the association of suicides with the teaching of race, Mr. Toth’s strained logic offers no substantiation for his observation, while also callously exploiting a mental health issue for political gain and, no doubt, injuring the sensibilities of Texas families who are indeed suffering such losses.
Although CENSORSHIP is being sold as an act of caring for White youth, it is having the opposite effect. According to the American Medical Association’s Everyday Health,
While parents may be tempted to shelter their children from issues that they find unfavorable or offensive, they may be restricting their child’s ability to grow and learn at the same time. These restrictive world views are the seeds of bigotry, with the implication being that anyone who believes differently from you must be foolish or misinformed. https://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health/censorship-schools-effects-on-our-children/
Our goal as educators and parents is not to create obstacles to a healthy understanding of the world so that our children can be productive members of society. This is not a partisan issue. According to a CBS News poll, 80% of Americans favor the teaching issues related to race and the country's history of racism. The authors of the subsequent report conclude that “The idea that teaching about race makes students feel guilty about past generations or makes them less racially tolerant today gets little traction with most Americans.”
We are facing a massive shortage of teachers in the classroom, and the specter of censorship and book banning only serves to add undue stress on an already overburdened profession. Moreover, CENSORSHIP spreads fear of others and the banning of books does nothing more than foster anxiety and dread when learning should be purposeful and enjoyable. It is this fear that led the framers of the Constitution to ensure our freedom of speech as a core feature of democratic life.
Since the inception of this country, our very first act was to establish the freedom of speech. The very first Amendment to our Constitution states that,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/amendment-1/
This cherished core value has been under attack during the past hundred years, but especially in recent times. The recent official view of the AFL-CIO underscores this fact:
The guarantee of access to a free and quality public education should be a right accorded to every child in this country. Securing that guarantee should be a goal and a value that unites all Americans and is supported by our public policies and policymakers at every level. [https://aflcio.org/about/leadership/statements/fighting-importance-public-education-our-children-our-economy-our.]
Clearly, our lawmakers seek to curtail an honest and diverse teaching of history and contemporary society and, in the process, hinder our children’s ability to fully understand and appreciate the complexity of our current world.
In response to the CENSORS, we say, EXPAND KNOWLEDGE, SUPPORT OUR TEACHERS, ENCOURAGE TRUTH-TELLING AND BUILD A BETTER WORLD OF UNDERSTANDING AND AUTHENTIC CARING.
Christopher Carmona, Ph.D.
Emilio Zamora, Ph.D.