Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"When I Look Back At All The Crap I Learned In High School..."--Paul Simon

Actually, it's a lot more fun than that.  First, this is some of the language of the bill that passed and became law:

 (1)  the fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government;
(2)  the history, qualities, traditions, and features of civic engagement in the United States;
(3)  the history of Native Americans;
(4)  the structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels;
(5)  the founding documents of the United States, including:
(A)  the Declaration of Independence;
(B)  the United States Constitution;
(C)  the Federalist Papers;
(D)  the transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate;
(E)  the writings of and about the founding fathers and mothers and other founding persons of the United States, including the writings of:
(i)  George Washington;
(ii)  Ona Judge;
(iii)  Thomas Jefferson;
(iv)  Sally Hemings; and
(v)  any other founding persons of the United States;
(F)  writings from Frederick Douglass's newspaper, the North Star;
(G)  the Book of Negroes;
(H)  the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850;
(I)  the Indian Removal Act;
(J)  Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists; and
(K)  William Still's Underground Railroad Records;
(6)  historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations, including documents related to:
(A)  the Chicano movement;
(B)  women's suffrage and equal rights;
(C)  the civil rights movement;
(D)  the Snyder Act of 1924; and
(E)  the American labor movement;
(7)  the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong;
(8)  the history and importance of the civil rights movement,  including the following documents:
(A)  Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream" speech;
(B)  the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. Section 2000a et seq.);
(C)  the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education;
(D)  the Emancipation Proclamation;
(E)  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
(F)  the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments  to the United States Constitution;
(G)  the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth  Circuit decision in Mendez v. Westminster;
(H)  Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave;
(I)  the life and work of Cesar Chavez; and
(J)  the life and work of Dolores Huerta;
(9)  the history and importance of the women's suffrage movement, including the following documents:
(A)  the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Section 10101 et seq.);
(B)  the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution;
(C)  Abigail Adams's letter "Remember the Ladies";
(D)  the works of Susan B. Anthony; and
(E)  the Declaration of Sentiments;
(10)  the life and works of Dr. Hector P. Garcia;
(11)  the American GI Forum;
(12)  the League of United Latin American Citizens; and
(13)  Hernandez v. Texas (1954).

Which, to be honest, is an improvement over what the Texas Senate first proposed:

(4)  the founding documents of the United States,
                    (A)  the Declaration of Independence;
                    (B)  the United States Constitution;
                    (C)  the Federalist Papers, including Essays 10
  and 51;
                    (D)  excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville's
  Democracy in America;
                    (E)  the transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas
  debate; and
                    (F)  the writings of the founding fathers of the
  United States.

Tocqueville wrote a "founding document"?  Okay.  The Lincoln-Douglas debates?

The debates focused on slavery: specifically, whether it would be allowed in the new states to be formed from the territory acquired through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican Cession. Douglas, as part of the Democratic party, held that the decision should be made by the residents of the new states themselves rather than by the federal government (popular sovereignty). Lincoln argued against the expansion of slavery, yet stressed that he was not advocating its abolition where it already existed.

So, isn't that going to bring in  "the concept that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex"?  Yeah, there were more than a few contradictions in the Senate language.  Which is not to say this bill still isn't nuts.  It's mostly fan service for the rubes, a stone to keep the elephants away.  But it's not just for the reasons Jennifer Bendery thinks it is.

This is the part you could be upset about (sorry for the length):

(h-3)  For any social studies course in the required curriculum:

(1)  a teacher may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs;

(2)  a teacher who chooses to discuss a topic described by Subdivision (1) shall, to the best of the teacher's ability, strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective;

(3)  a school district, open-enrollment charter school, or teacher may not require, make part of a course, or award a grade or course credit, including extra credit, for a student's:

(A)  political activism, lobbying, or efforts to persuade members of the legislative or executive branch at the federal, state, or local level to take specific actions by direct communication; or

(B)  participation in any internship, practicum, or similar activity involving social or public policy advocacy; and

(4)  a teacher, administrator, or other employee of a state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not:

(A)  be required to engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex;

(B)  require or make part of a course the concept that:

(i)  one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;

(ii)  an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;

(iii)  an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual's race;

(iv)  members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;

(v)  an individual's moral character, standing, or worth is necessarily determined by the individual's race or sex;

(vi)  an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

(vii)  an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's race or sex;

(viii)  meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race;

(ix)  the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or

(x)  with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality; and

(C)  require an understanding of The 1619 Project.

(h-4)  A state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not accept private funding for the purpose of developing a curriculum, purchasing or selecting curriculum materials, or providing teacher training or professional development for a course described by Subsection (h-3)(3).

(h-5)  A school district or open-enrollment charter school may not implement, interpret, or enforce any rules or student code of conduct in a manner that would result in the punishment of a student for discussing, or have a chilling effect on student discussion of, the concepts described by Subsection (h-3)(4).

But not most of what it says is that teachers "may not be compelled" or "required" to do certain things.  This doesn't ban teaching subjects so much as it protects the feelings of snowflakes who might have to teach something they didn't already learn in school.  In other words, it might apply to some wing-nut teachers (yes, there are probably plenty of those), but those teachers are already teaching Texas and American history they way I learned it:  the benefits of "Manifest Destiny" and the brave "Texians" who fought the evil dictator Santa Anna so Texas could be free.  To have slavery, is what they wanted to be free for; but we never learned that part in school.  

The highlighted language is what sets everybody (including Bender) on fire.  But that is one long provision about "training, orientation, or therapy."  "Re-education," in other words. The fact is, by now, most teachers are quite familiar with the information in "The 1619 Project."  If they have any training in history, for example, especially if they are recent college graduates, they may have heard of the history of the Alamo represented in Forget The Alamo.  That book is a "popular history," which means you and I may not have heard history that way, but nothing in the book is original research.  It re-presents the work of historians to a non-academic audience.  Is it "re-education" if I, as a teacher, read that book and use it in a Texas history class?  Well, only if I was "compelled" or "required" to read it.  But it's summer, it's a good read, and my time is my own; as are my thoughts.  Public school teachers are restricted in what they can teach (this entire amendment to the Education Code applies to material to be covered on Texas's statewide standardized tests), but they aren't subject to mind-control.

Well, not yet, anyway.

This language says teachers can't "be compelled" to teach certain topics.  It doesn't say they can't be taught.  Let's go back to this section:

(1)  a teacher may not be compelled to discuss current

  events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of

  public policy or social affairs;

              (2)  a teacher who chooses to discuss topics described

  by Subdivision (1) shall, to the best of the teacher's ability,

  strive to explore those topics from diverse and contending

  perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective;

Alright:  "may not be compelled", but if the teacher "chooses to discuss topics described," they must do it from "diverse and contending perspectives."  Which I support, so long as this isn't interepreted into saying slavery was good for America, or worse, good for the slaves.  But presenting "diverse and contending perspectives" actually sounds like a good idea to me.

Basically, I disagree with Bendery that this prohibits teachers from teaching current events or things like this:

No, they can't be "compelled" to do those things. But frankly, a teacher who gets crossways with their district over the course curriculum and issues like this may soon find themselves parting ways with that district, although the grounds will not be because the teacher was "compelled" to teach history accurately. I mean, the Texas Education Code is full of the fossils of previous "culture war" shibboleths, like this:

A school district may not use common core state standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels under Subsection (c).

Does anybody even know what "common core state standards" are anymore?

The valid legal question, IMHLO, is how Lite Guv. Patrick rammed this turkey through the Texas Senate and on to the Governor's desk:

Rottinghaus is not a lawyer, but he's essentially right: it's a question of which challenge is likeliest to bear fruit.  The process challenge is the interesting one:  does this law's passage violate the Texas Constitution, making it null and void ab initio?  I mean, either the state constitution means what it says, or it means whatever we want to do is fine, and there are no rules.  I sort of like that one, though I can see the 1st Amendment argument, too; it's just not as straight-forward as non-lawyers think it is.

Mostly this is just jackassery.  It looks good on paper, but it doesn't mean a helluva lot.  It's going to create more work for school district lawyers, and cost school districts more money in legal fees, and I don't mean from lawsuits (there aren't really grounds for recovery here).  Aggrieved citizens might make a complaint to the Texas Education Agency, but they won't be getting gag orders from state district courts on this statutory language.  They certainly won't get damages or attorney's fees, so who's going to hire a lawyer for a lawsuit?  The district will have to pay for legal advice, and that's another problem and another expense schools don't need.

I'm not a fan of this law.  It's unnecessary and an enroachment on the classroom, but then public schools are already so micro-managed one more "scary" topic put into law with language as vague and unenforceable as this (I speak as a lawyer; nobody's going to court to enforce this language; not successfully, anyway) is must another snowflake in a blizzard.  This is more crap, but then our public schools have never been about education as much as they are about indoctrination.  This is another bad look for Texas, but otherwise?  Same as it ever was.


  1. Let's see them stop students from talking about them. I would have seen this as them throwing down the gauntlet when I was a teenager.

  2. This is the Snowflake Teacher Protection Act. Even the reference to the 1619 Project doesn't ban it from the classroom; it only prohibits schools from requiring teachers to teach it. But if a teacher wants to teach it....

    I suppose they'd still face the wrath of hotheads in the district, maybe even the opprobrium of the school board. In that case, same as it ever was....