Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D. • Knowledge is Power • September 2, 2021 •

Texas is one of 28 states to consider policies that attempt to restrict or ban classroom conversations on race, racism and racial history. Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 3979 in the spring and are currently debating even more stringent measures to censor classroom discussions and whitewash school curriculum.

HB 3979 went into effect on September 1, 2021, but not all parts of the bill will hit classrooms this school year. It makes two major changes to how race can be discussed and taught in schools. And it makes additions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for required social studies courses.

This means that the Texas State Board of Education will be tasked with revising social studies learning standards to include broad concepts about this country’s founding documents and civic engagement, as well as specific figures, names and events of racial significance. Many of the bill’s changes will go into effect through the State Board of Education’s review of learning standards. Students and advocates can make their voices heard through that review process by testifying how it restricts their knowledge of themselves and their history. Unlike similar legislation proposed during summer legislative sessions, the list notes key historical figures who are Black, Latino, Indigenous and women.

However, the law does prohibit requiring certain concepts in classroom discussions and teacher training. This law and similar proposed bills seek to censor school conversations that pertain to race and racism, as well as sexism, slavery, forms of oppression and current events. Even though supporters frame the law as about civics education, HB 3979 attempts to curtail truthful civics and history, and it prohibits students from gaining course credit for real-world civic engagement in their local, state and federal governments.

The prohibited concepts in classroom discussion and teacher training could dissuade teachers from discussing topics related to race, racism and historically significant events. Already, some school districts have reported canceling civics education that they fear would tread too closely to these prohibitions.

Texas learning standards scarcely mention key historical figures of color and women, and anti-CRT legislation diminishes their contributions to history even further.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2, 2021, edition of Knowledge is Power by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]