Texas Senate Declares War on History

tags: curriculum, Texas, culture war, teaching history, history wars

Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of the book, Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party. Follow him on Twitter @julianzelizer

In certain states, we are witnessing a dangerous, all-out assault on how elementary and high school students will be taught the history of racism and civil rights in the United States. And it's only a matter of time before this campaign reaches our college campuses.

In recent months, many conservatives have turned "Critical Race Theory" into the new weapon they're trying to wield against Democrats, akin to the migrant "caravan" and "socialism" memes they've invoked in recent years. They are stoking fears in communities around the country about what their kids are learning in the classroom.

Last summer, as a result of the killing of George Floyd, many people finally started to focus on the horrors that Black Americans have long faced at the hands of our criminal justice system. Now this new conservative assault is threatening to eclipse the reckoning over racism with a McCarthyite frenzy over school curricula.

The most recent legislative effort to cancel out our understanding of the history of racism in America is taking place in Texas. The Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill that would undermine the ability of teachers to offer substantive and accurate lessons about the nation's past.

The legislation eliminates requirements that students read a number of key writings on women's suffrage, the civil rights movement and more. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech, along with the work of figures such as Susan B. Anthony and Cesar Chavez -- would be pushed out of the required content for the courses.

According to Bloomberg Law, the author of the bill, State Sen. Bryan Hughes, said, "What we're doing with this bill, we're saying that specific reading list doesn't belong in statute."

The bill would also eliminate a requirement that students learn about the history of white supremacy and the "ways in which it is morally wrong." The book that is to be published this fall from the New York Times' 1619 Project would be prohibited in Texas.

Nor is Texas alone. The attacks on civil rights history are taking place in other states like Tennessee, where a bill passed by the House would ensure that teachers could not work with students on any material that makes them "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual's race or sex."

This is a concerted effort to wash away some of the most crucial elements of the nation's past. Though much of the debate is being framed as being about "Critical Race Theory" -- a term that is politically useful since most Americans have no idea what it means -- it's really about teaching the history of race relations and civil rights.

Read entire article at CNN