Quote of the Day: Teaching Contending Perspectives in Texas

 

Open letter to my college classmates, including and especially those who teach yoga, and/or live in the northeast, and/or who would never even consider living in Texas among so many Deplorables:

Stop spreading misinformation, y’all. Now that I’m a Texan, I am compelled to defend my home state from your baseless attacks. The biased and uninformed tweets and memes that you post have the potential to further damage any remaining goodwill that might still exist in our fraying Republic. By sharing misinformation with the clear intent to mischaracterize and denigrate a well-meaning and carefully written Texas law, you demonstrate your disdain for your fellow Americans and your complete lack of interest in making even a minimal effort to understand them. Your goal is clearly to present the newly enacted sections of the Texas law on teaching social studies in its public schools as completely backward. The tweet that you shared from NBC News presents some factual information, but it does so in such a misleading way as to be untrue. If NBC had reported that the “school administrator [mistakenly] advised teachers” to include books about the Holocaust and books with an opposing perspective, then that would have truthfully captured to nature of what transpired. One word can make a big difference. Isn’t it funny how these frequent mistakes or omissions by “news” organizations always seem to support a preferred narrative?

I’m no expert on the Texas law or Carroll Independent School District administrators, but it wasn’t that hard to find the School District’s refutation of this school administrator’s “advice.” And I found it on NPR, so you don’t even have to read some objectionable right-wing news outlet to read that “the comments made were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.” Furthermore, Lane Ledbetter, the Superintendent of Schools explained that “we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust….As we continue to work through implementation of HB3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.”

You followed the NBC post with two more misleading posts about the same incident, one in which text referencing a teacher being reprimanded for having an anti-racism book in her classroom is encircled boldly in red. This seems intended to insinuate that the Carroll school board and probably most of the residents of the school district are racists. After all, you must think, who would object to an anti-racist book except a bunch of racists? It’s clear why this post is framed in this way and why the anti-racism controversy is emphasized, but it’s not at all clear from the information provided how to fully evaluate the actions of the school board, the teacher, or the parent involved. What was the book? What does anti-racism mean to all the parties? By any chance, did the book purport to teach white children that they are inherently racist? Could that be a reason for the parent’s objection? Do you care?

 Finally, you post some quotes from a misinformed elementary school teacher. She appears to share your lack of curiosity about the Texas law that she is partly responsible for implementing. The teacher expresses fear that teachers will be punished for having certain books in their classrooms, and she makes clear that it’s not just the historical accuracy of the Holocaust that’s at stake. She supposedly believes that teachers are expected to present “opposing perspectives” on slavery. And it’s clear that you sympathize with the poor teachers not only in Carroll ISD, but in all of Texas because you’re sure that what the misinformed school administrator and teacher are saying is true. The fact that it’s not even close to true doesn’t seem to occur to you. Even though you obviously have internet access, you are so incurious that you have never thought to read the original text of the Texas law. As some might say, just Google it. I did. For your edification, here is the relevant text from H.B. No. 3979, which was signed into law by Governor Abbott on June 16, 2021:

“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;”

Thankfully, the Holocaust and American slavery are not current events. Next time, do a little research before you share inaccurate and harmful content to your friends and family. If you have an issue with the actual text of the law, its aims, or its merits, go ahead and make your case. We can’t be friends if you aren’t going to approach important matters of public interest in good faith.

Published in Group Writing
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There are 17 comments.

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  1. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    but… how else could outrage be ginned up, if we weren’t bombarded with fake news? 

     

    Thanks for setting the record straight.

    • #1
  2. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Lilly B: Now that I’m a Texan, I am compelled to defend my home state. ..

    As your local reporter here just a few blocks from Southlake, it is my job to inform you newcomers that SCOTUS has confirmed that we Texans do not have standing in this republic. Defend away…but it matters not.

    (Excellent post.)

    • #2
  3. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    philo (View Comment):
    As your local reporter here just a few blocks from Southlake

    Where’s a few blocks from Southlake?

    I’m in North Richland Hills.

    • #3
  4. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    philo (View Comment):
    As your local reporter here just a few blocks from Southlake

    Where’s a few blocks from Southlake?

    I’m in North Richland Hills.

    Yes 

    • #4
  5. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    philo (View Comment):

    Lilly B: Now that I’m a Texan, I am compelled to defend my home state. ..

    As your local reporter here just a few blocks from Southlake, it is my job to inform you newcomers that SCOTUS has confirmed that we Texans do not have standing in this republic. Defend away…but it matters not.

    (Excellent post.)

    Thanks! Against the leftist narratives, it’s a Sisyphean task. I just saw the Washington Post jumping on the bandwagon with the same framing of this story. Part of the story should be that it’s not and shouldn’t be a national “news” story. The WP is baiting readers with the inaccurate comments about the Holocaust so that they’ll “click on the link for more on this story.” They could just say up front that this one administrator is wrong. It’s another example of how the MSM is the worst and so many people continue to fall for their lies. 

    • #5
  6. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    but… how else could outrage be ginned up, if we weren’t bombarded with fake news?

     

    Thanks for setting the record straight.

    So true. See my reply to @philo. Social media can be used for good, but the efforts to gin up outrage are so toxic to our country.

    • #6
  7. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    philo (View Comment):

    Lilly B: Now that I’m a Texan, I am compelled to defend my home state. ..

    As your local reporter here just a few blocks from Southlake

    I am hoping that most school administrators and teachers in Southlake and Carroll ISD aren’t as dense as the ones in the story, but it does make me worried about the quality of “educators” there and in our Texas school district. If they need training on this new law, I think I am more qualified to lead it after writing this post than that school administrator who probably has 20 years experience and a Ph.D. in education.

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Thanks for the clarifications and background information, and for drawing attention to the entirety of HB3979.  I’m all for laying out a set of “essential knowledge and skills,” as this Bill does.

    Still, I’m not sure why (according to the Bill)

    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.

    I read that to mean that, if, say, a high-school student in a relevant social-studies class wants to talk about, say, the Afghanistan withdrawal–certainly an important, recent, matter of public interest and somewhat controversial–the teacher could simply say–“we’re not going to talk about that here.”  Ditto for any other controversial subject the teacher doesn’t want to wade into, whether of current events or “currently controversial” social or public policy issues.  Is that what it means?

    If so, I cannot help thinking that’s just another nail in the coffin of a long-held societal expectation that we can–and should be able to–discuss difficult subjects in a civil manner, which itself used to be one of the skills taught in school–a place you could go to hear different points of view that you might not be exposed to in your family life–with the teacher taking the lead in responsibly managing the debate.   Giving individual teachers the power to squelch, at will, a discussion of subjects for unidentified reasons which may be as amorphous as “it makes me uncomfortable so I’m not going to talk about it,” strikes me as a rather poor idea, especially given that several items on the list of “essential knowledge and skills” might be described as widely-debated and controversial today–Martin Luther King, or the “eugenics movement” for example.  Quite often, discussing the “public policy and social issues” of today is impossible without discussing their historical context, and I’m not sure how the contending portions of the bill articulate, and how that should be resolved if the teacher doesn’t want to cover them.

    The second part of that portion of the Bill, that:

    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

    is what’s caused the kerfuffle, but seems to better represent (with a very few exceptions) my view of what the teacher should be doing once a particular subject is in play.  It’s unfortunate and unsurprising however, in a society increasingly run by the letter–rather than the spirit–of the law, that it’s not much of a step from this statement to the conclusion that one should present opposing viewpoints and “diverse and contending perspectives” for all historical and current events no matter how horrific or universally reviled.

    Much else in the bill is admirable, and–in its proscriptions of unfair treatment on the basis of of race and sex–ought to be applied universally, and not specifically to schools and teachers.

    Overall, I think it’s a shame that such a bill is required at the state level.  And that endless news cycles, and Lord only knows how many resources, and how much money, are going to be devoted to interpreting and clarifying it, as always happens when such things are enacted and take on a life of their own.

    • #8
  9. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    Does NBC (or any other mainstream news outlet) tell the truth about anything?  Maybe they did in the 50’s.

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

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    • #10
  11. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    How would we regard a teacher who teaches from the protocols of the elders of zion?

    • #11
  12. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    She (View Comment):

    Overall, I think it’s a shame that such a bill is required at the state level. And that endless news cycles, and Lord only knows how many resources, and how much money, are going to be devoted to interpreting and clarifying it, as always happens when such things are enacted and take on a life of their own.

    Your comments are so thoughtful and nuanced, as usual, that I haven’t had the time to respond adequately. On your last point I fully agree. Policing discussion is never the best option, but I think the Texas legislature was trying to craft a solution to the problem of one-sided woke-ism taking over the classroom. 

    • #12
  13. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Lilly B: We can’t be friends if because you aren’t going to don’t approach important matters of public interest in good faith.

    Fixed it for you.

    • #13
  14. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    How would we regard a teacher who teaches from the protocols of the elders of zion?

    With attempted sympathy for their sudden unemployed status?

    • #14
  15. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    She (View Comment):
    Giving individual teachers the power to squelch, at will, a discussion of subjects for unidentified reasons which may be as amorphous as “it makes me uncomfortable so I’m not going to talk about it,” strikes me as a rather poor idea, especially given that several items on the list of “essential knowledge and skills” might be described as widely-debated and controversial today–Martin Luther King, or the “eugenics movement” for example.  Quite often, discussing the “public policy and social issues” of today is impossible without discussing their historical context, and I’m not sure how the contending portions of the bill articulate, and how that should be resolved if the teacher doesn’t want to cover them.

    Some issues can take up as much space as you give them. If I was a teacher I’m not sure I’d want to have my class time devoured by discussions about Israel/Palestine or systemic racism exists/doesn’t exist or Marriage Equality Obvious Good/Bad or Civil War faught for states rights/slavery.  All worthy subjects for enquiry, perhaps, but I have a lesson plan I need to get through to educate the little blighters. And a discussion cut short by time constraints may not be that useful.

    • #15
  16. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Zafar (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Giving individual teachers the power to squelch, at will, a discussion of subjects for unidentified reasons which may be as amorphous as “it makes me uncomfortable so I’m not going to talk about it,” strikes me as a rather poor idea, especially given that several items on the list of “essential knowledge and skills” might be described as widely-debated and controversial today–Martin Luther King, or the “eugenics movement” for example. Quite often, discussing the “public policy and social issues” of today is impossible without discussing their historical context, and I’m not sure how the contending portions of the bill articulate, and how that should be resolved if the teacher doesn’t want to cover them.

    Some issues can take up as much space as you give them. If I was a teacher I’m not sure I’d want to have my class time devoured by discussions about Israel/Palestine or systemic racism exists/doesn’t exist or Marriage Equality Obvious Good/Bad or Civil War faught for states rights/slavery. All worthy subjects for enquiry, perhaps, but I have a lesson plan I need to get through to educate the little blighters. And a discussion cut short by time constraints may not be that useful.

    I was thinking along those lines, too. Part of the law is written to ensure that teachers can get through required content without being drawn into time-consuming and/or potentially combative discussions with students. It’s not that the issues aren’t worthy of discussion, but class time is limited.

     

    • #16
  17. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    How would we regard a teacher who teaches from the protocols of the elders of zion?

    With attempted sympathy for their sudden unemployed status?

    Not really.

    • #17