One of the current “hobby horses” for the far right is CRT, Critical Race Theory, actually an upper-level course in law schools across the country. Somehow, they have defined and promoted it as a course taught at all levels of school. This mis definition claims it is a way to shame children of European ancestry because their ancestors allowed and may have participated in the enslavement of other human beings. They want any mention of slavery and its history placed pre-Civil War. It is to be treated as something of our past like horse drawn transportation and only white-skinned males in control. It is not an issue in the Twenty-first Century. As a trained history teacher, certified in several states, I am appalled. As one famous British pundit once said, “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it” and that period of history is one we do not need to repeat.
To counter the teaching of CRT, which does not really happen in elementary and secondary public schools, the “esteemed” Texas Legislature is considering a bill to ban certain curriculum as follows: SB 16 51.982. PROHIBITION ON COMPELLING CERTAIN BELIEFS. (a)In this section, “institution of higher education” has the meaning assigned by Section 61.003. (b) A faculty member of an institution of higher education may not compel or attempt to compel a student enrolled at the institution to adopt a belief that any race, sex, or ethnicity or social, political, or religious belief is inherently superior to any other race, sex, ethnicity…(Available here.) The understanding is that just teaching this will compel the student to be ashamed. (Personally, if you have managed to get to the last year of law school, I would expect you to be brighter than that.)
Now, since the course is considered important for those who will practice law in civil and municipal organizations, one wonders if those students who want to work in those fields will skip law schools in Texas. As with the current push to eliminate tenure for higher education faculty, these prohibitions will degrade the quality of higher education in Texas. Two other bills are being promoted this session to increase the funding for Emerging Research Universities such as Texas State. (Transparency, I taught there as a part time for nearly 20 years.) Money alone will not increase the prestige of Texas schools. To rise to the level of Tier I Research university, one must grant a high number of terminal degrees. That means, you must attract and teach high numbers of graduate students and having been one myself, you don’t go to a school with a mediocre reputation. You try for the best in your field. A professor who is not offered job security will apply somewhere else.
One element of this proposed bill, SB16, caught my attention immediately, “religious belief.” Given that some of these same far right legislators have been quoted as supporting the theme of “Christian Nationalism” one wonders how this prohibition would work if the country were to adopt their program. If Christianity is to be the nationally recognized religion in the United States, then by definition, it has to be taught as better than all other religious systems. Would that not cause a conflict with this legislation? Like the current argument to make it a serious felony to make a mistake when helping someone vote or just trying to vote, sometimes legislation is not given deep thought. What is the full effect of what we are passing?
The way the Texas Legislature works is a tradition from its Populist history in the 1870s. Perhaps now in the Twenty-first Century, perhaps some changes, like yearly sessions and more time to read what is being considered? It might change the biannual comment, “Is that the circus back in town?” “Nope, just the Legislature.”