Actually, it's a lot more fun than that. First, this is some of the language of the bill that passed and became law:
This new Texas law specifies all kinds of things relating to racism -- structural, historical -- that social studies teachers aren’t allowed to talk about as part of a course.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
Let's see what they are!
(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Act;(J) Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists; and(K) William Still's Underground Railroad Records;(6) historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations, including documents related to:(A) the Chicano movement;(B) women's suffrage and equal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).
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:
Social studies teachers in Texas can no longer make it part of a course to talk about the concept -- just the concept -- that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex."— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
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).
The valid legal question, IMHLO, is how Lite Guv. Patrick rammed this turkey through the Texas Senate and on to the Governor's desk:
...Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick bypassed rules to push the bill through anyway.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
He possibly violated the Texas Constitution, and also violated Senate rules that prohibit passing a House bill after the 135th day of a lege session. He pushed through the bill on the 137th day.
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.
The law is very likely headed to court.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 16, 2021
"The question is whether it is an institutional challenge, a process challenge, or a free speech challenge," says Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston professor and expert in Texas politics. https://t.co/res3NedFtT