AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' new law aimed at keeping "critical race theory" out of classrooms is causing confusion among teachers. The law is designed to limit how race-related subjects are taught in public schools. But it came with so little guidance that earlier this month one state administrator made headlines for requesting teachers present opposing views of the Holocaust due to its ideological basis in white supremacy.
“It’s fairly vaguely written. There’s not really clarity around what teachers can and cannot talk about. And it seems, in effect, what’s been happening across the state is that it becomes very much a district by district approach to how it’s enacted or enforced or what guidance teachers are given about what kinds of things are allowed to be discussed in the classroom,” said Meghan Dougherty, an instructional social studies coach at Round Rock ISD and the president-elect for the Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association.
House Bill 3979 states that teachers cannot "require or make part of a course" certain race-related concepts including the idea that one race or sex is "inherently superior to another race or sex" or that an individual is "inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive" based on their race or sex. The bill also states teachers can't be compelled "to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs." But if they must, they are required to "explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective."
“The idea that critical race theory is being taught or has ever been taught in our schools, most teachers you would talk to had never even heard of the term a year ago,” Dougherty said. “I think most social studies teachers do the right thing in the classroom in terms of presenting multiple perspectives on controversial issues. I don’t think that most teachers are trying to put forth one perspective or indoctrinate students in a single ideology.”
Dougherty also said she’s concerned about what it will mean for educating kids.
“I think that being exposed to multiple perspectives, being exposed to a lot of diverse sources and understanding how to determine reliability and accuracy of a source, that’s an important skill for students, especially in this day and age of the plethora of information that comes from the internet,” she said. “I’m afraid that this kind of bill and this kind of fear mongering is going to lead teachers to shy away from really exposing kids and helping kids to suss out the merits of different arguments.”
Click the video link above to watch our full interview with Dougherty.