New and improved bill re: social studies.

The passage of SB 3 in the second special session should ease the minds of history teachers and principals.  The earlier version of this bill—HB 3979—was so ambiguous and vague that it left teachers fearful that they would get in trouble for even mentioning some of the darker moments in American history.  SB 3 goes a long way toward correcting that. 

I say this largely because of a word I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a statute: “inculcation.”  SB 3 identifies eight “concepts” that teachers are not to “inculcate” in their students.   Here is the exact language of Texas Education Code 28.0022(a)(4):

A teacher, administrator, or other employee of a state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not: (A) require or make part of a course inculcation in the concept that: 

It then lists the Eight Forbidden Concepts.  For example, we don’t want teachers to “inculcate” in their students the idea that a person’s moral character is determined by their race or sex.  Or the idea that today’s students should feel responsible or guilty over things that their ancestors did.

“Inculcate” is defined as “to teach and impress by frequent repetition or admonitions.”  So teachers are not to do that with any of these concepts. But they can talk about things. They can say “some historians believe….” They can cite sources that do promote those ideas, so long as they avoid “frequent repetition or admonitions” designed to make sure that their students agree with any of these “concepts.” 

Principals are likely to get complaints from parents about things that teachers say or do in the classroom.  All such complaints need to be addressed. But unless there is evidence of a teacher really pushing the notion that students should believe certain things, there is no “inculcation.”

One more example: the new law says that teachers may not “require an understanding of the 1619 Project.”  That doesn’t say the teachers can’t talk about this New York Times project, or outline its basic assertions. Nor does it prohibit a teacher from giving students credit for reading the material and making a report on it.  The teacher should probably refrain from testing the students on the content, because that would mean that the students were required to understand it, which is what SB 3 prohibits.  The 1619 Project presents an interesting and provocative view of the history of slavery and the role of racism in America’s development. But those same issues are woven into the existing TEKS for American history classes.  Teachers can’t teach the full TEKS without talking about these issues.


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Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!