By now you have read reports that among the “crucial” issues outlined by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was House Bill 3979, which forbids the teaching of critical race theory in Texas public schools.
As a retired college teacher with over a half-century of teaching experience, my thoughts on this bill range from “so” to “why?”
Critical race theory emerged in the 1970s to examine the intersection of race and laws developed by the white majority in the United States. The purpose of this discussion isn’t to attempt to explain or defend the theory, but to question why Republicans in a number of state legislatures, including Texas, has sought to pass laws both proscribing and prohibiting what may be taught in the classroom and what the impact on public education may be in the future.
It’s ironic that many of the documents mandated to be included in Section 28.002 of the Texas Education Code could also be cited by supporters of critical race theory as examples of how the nation’s and state’s legal codes support the theory’s arguments.
There’s insufficient space in this commentary to give a detailed analysis of that point, but one example should suffice: Article I of the U.S. Constitution allocates the representatives in the House of Representatives on the basis of population, except that slaves (other persons) were only counted as three-fifths of a person.
There are two questions to be considered: First, does the Legislature have the legal authority to proscribe what can be taught or not taught? The answer is yes. Secondly, is this a wise idea? My answer to this is no. The Legislature must remember that those in the majority today may well be in the minority tomorrow.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the racial and ethnic makeup of students in the public schools in Texas is as follows: Hispanic, 52.8 percent; non-Hispanic white, 27 percent; African American, 12.6 percent; Asian, 4.6. percent; and mixed race, 2.5 percent. This means in the future, about three-quarters of the population of Texas will be decidedly different from the racial and ethnic balance of today’s Texas Legislature.
Once the precedent of having the Texas Legislature dictate what can be taught has been established, who knows what the result may be?
When I first started teaching at Galveston College over a half century ago, the number of students in the “minority” communities was so small that the percentage was less than 1 percent of total enrollment. In 2020, the figures are as follows: Hispanic, 42 percent; African American, 15 percent; and Asian, 3 percent. This is a total of 60 percent.
Finally, my closing comment. Attacking critical race theory is a boogeyman exercise. Legislating what can or cannot be taught in Texas public schools is a slippery slope. Just because a particular party is in the majority today doesn’t mean that it will continue to be in the majority forever.