A Texas Charter School is Caught in the Critical Race Theory StormBreaking News
tags: Texas, culture war, teaching history, Ibram X. Kendi, critical race theory
A planned San Antonio charter school was on the verge of winning final approval from the Texas Education Agency last August when a final set of requests arrived.
Among them: The school needed to scrub its website and application of a quote by “How to Be an Antiracist” author Ibram X. Kendi.
In documents obtained by Chalkbeat, the agency indicated that the proposed school, Essence Preparatory, had included “statements, authors, or written works” violating a new Texas law that limits how race and slavery can be taught. But that law does not bar specific authors, and the quote does not appear to run afoul of any portion of the law, suggesting that Texas has gone beyond the text of the statute to keep schools from referencing an author whose work is controversial.
“This is more clear evidence of what anti–book banning advocates have been warning for months now,” said James Tager, research director of PEN America, a group that opposes censorship. “It is going to be used — and, in fact, is being used in cases like this — to ban specific books or authors.”
Essence Prep’s experience sheds new light on how laws opposing “critical race theory” are being used and interpreted behind the scenes. Texas’ enforcement also had practical consequences for the school, costing it both money and time.
“That took almost three months away from us in prepping and setting the stage for the scholars that we will serve,” said founder Akeem Brown. “We’re playing catch up.”
Brown, who is Black, had long dreamed of starting his own school. While working for a city council member in San Antonio, he saw the area’s anemic college-readiness rate and began talking to parents and students about what they wanted to see in a school.
“He spoke about empowering people through knowing their race and their lineage,” said Dre Daniels, a parent who met Brown at the barbershop where Daniels cuts hair. “When the parents and the school can be on the same level, the learning never stops.”
In early 2021, Brown submitted a nearly 500-page application to the state, promising high academic standards, culturally responsive teaching, and a focus on learning about public policy. Included in the application was this quote from Kendi: “The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is antiracist.”
The plan won high marks from the Texas Education Agency, which recommended the school be granted a charter.
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