Teaching History? What Is Texas Senate Bill 3 Really About?
SB 3, as passed by the Texas Senate, is unlikely to pass during this special session, as Texas House Democrats have made themselves unavailable to provide the needed quorum to pass it, even though the Texas House is primarily republican.
Should we simply ignore its implications and move on then? Or is this simply a piece of a much larger puzzle, a puzzle that forms the rather dubious teaching of "history" in the state of Texas?
Democrats are up in arms that certain requirements were dropped in teaching requirements, meaning K-12 teachers are not explicitly instructed to teach that the KKK was morally wrong, and that they can omit teaching about Martin Luther King's speeches and Ceasar Chavez's work for migrant rights. Additionally, the bill provides that 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)AAa teacher who chooses to discuss a topic described by Subdivision (1) shall, to the best of the teacher ’s ability, strive to explore that topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective
Yeah, be sure to take a school shooter's perspective into account. Wait, what?
While in public school, history was always incredibly tedious and boring to me, and also incredibly suspect. I remember being taught that Natives were practically cavemen, living on the edge of survival until the Europeans, who simply came here to make everything better for everyone, showed up to teach these backward folks about Culture™.
I remember one lesson in particular in which we were taught that some Natives ate feces. I am not kidding or exaggerating. Oh and whoopsie, Europeans accidentally gave all the Natives the plague and that's why there are zero natives left and we should just forget the whole thing and move on.
Fun fact: there's still plenty of Native people, many of whom are marginalized and impoverished but some have casinos so we are even stevens, right?
I don't even want to recall how slavery and the civil war were taught.
History is inherently subjective. We do not, nor should we, live there, and we must rely on the inherently biased personal accounts of people who were able to leave behind documentation or material artifacts to tell the story- a story that will always be fragmented and incomplete. Already, we are missing pieces of the puzzle, fallen from the card table of our collective memory and lost forever to the dirty carpet of time.
Add in the gnarled fingers of politicians, and what you are left with is just a propaganda campaign. Both sides on the aisle do it, and the truth is left on the sidelines, only to be acknowledged by academics and historians and nerds like me.
No matter who is "in control" politically, I don't believe that politicians should get a say in what is taught in History class. Because they will always have an agenda. History education should be dictated by historians, and always with the caveat that we are missing pieces. We won't ever get a complete image, but we could at least tell to the best of our ability what the image may be. If the image shows that our predecessors were racist, sexist, power-hungry morons, then let us use that opportunity to be better. We can still celebrate their accomplishments AND condemn their bad behavior. It's better than ignoring the pieces we do have on the table.