Fri, 06/25/2021 - 19:14

The current Texas legislative session has been difficult to watch from the sidelines. I was a candidate for the Texas House in 2020 and named the Texas Social Studies Teacher of the Year in 2019 by the Texas Council for the Social Studies (TCSS). House Bill 3979, introduced by Republican state representative Steve Toth, is totalitarian in how deeply it attempts to infiltrate and curate the instruction delivered by certified professional educators. The bill takes aim at critical race theory, insists that slavery be taught in a way that diminishes the reality of white supremacy, and makes discussing current events more difficult for teachers.

House Bill 3979 "takes aim at critical race theory, insists that slavery be taught in a way that diminishes the reality of white supremacy, and makes discussing current events more difficult for teachers."

While Democratic state representative James Talarico, and others, have been heroically battling the barrage of bad bills being put forth by Republicans, I can’t help but imagine myself there on the floor of the Texas House denouncing bills that I know from first-hand experience would diminish the ability of teachers to provide a meaningful civic education to Texas students. How do you teach U.S. History or American Government without a thorough account of the many ways the effects of racism are still present in today’s society? How do you spark student interest and make course material relevant to their lives if you’re discouraged from talking about controversial topics or current events? These bills that attempt to dictate the details of how an educator presents the history of racism and restrict freedom of speech in the classroom are not only difficult to enforce, they are entirely unnecessary and inappropriate.

"What is behind the GOP’s attempt to control the historical narrative about racism in such a top-down manner that recalls the Soviet Union’s historical revisionism? The answer is power."

What is behind the GOP’s attempt to control the historical narrative about racism in such a top-down manner that recalls the Soviet Union’s historical revisionism? The answer is power. The Republican Party has devolved into a cult of personality devoted to an authoritarian figure who would rather erode and undermine representative democracy than admit his own defeat. They know they have lost the youth vote, so they are desperately trying to control what young people are taught in school. Social studies teachers in Texas public schools are not biased against conservatism or the Republican Party, but they are intelligent enough to identify the ways that history rhymes. If you’re teaching students about the expansion of voting rights in the 1960s, it is difficult not to see today’s Republican Party as having more in common with George Wallace than John Lewis. Young people are being turned off by the Republican Party NOT because biased teachers with a liberal agenda are indoctrinating them, but because the Republican Party has gone off the rails and become unrecognizable from what it was as recently as Texan George W. Bush’s presidency.

"Young people are being turned off by the Republican Party NOT because biased teachers with a liberal agenda are indoctrinating them, but because the Republican Party has gone off the rails and become unrecognizable from what it was as recently as Texan George W. Bush’s presidency."

As the GOP commits more intensely to a white, Christian, nationalist narrative about America’s identity and past, its brand is becoming toxic with young people of color. Texas students are very diverse and they are connecting the dots between today’s Republican Party and the darker chapters of American history. The GOP’s response is an attempt to alter what they are taught about American history and politics in the hopes that history can be kept in the past. It is clear to anyone who studies American history who was in the wrong in the 1870s when the KKK was flourishing or the 1950s when the national guard had to integrate schools after white resistance to Supreme Court decisions like Brown. Similarly, it is crystal clear who is in the wrong today as efforts to restrict ballot access appear alongside attempts to whitewash the history of white supremacy and its lingering effects.

"The bills being imposed on our public-school students and teachers are nothing but an attempt to hide history to more easily mask today’s hate."

The bills being imposed on our public-school students and teachers are nothing but an attempt to hide history to more easily mask today’s hate. The Republicans of today are attempting to re-establish the one-party rule that existed in the South after Reconstruction. It was a place where people of color couldn’t vote, where the other party literally had no chance of winning elections, and the laws reflected the beliefs and preferences of white, Christian men. Restoring that world is what “Make America Great Again” means to today’s Republicans. Angry and disillusioned by their loss of power at the national level, they are now pursuing their reactionary agenda with full-force at the state level.

"This legislative session is cause for real concern as Texas is dragged backward, but I am confident that we will emerge from this darkness into a new light."

This legislative session is cause for real concern as Texas is dragged backward, but I am confident that we will emerge from this darkness into a new light. I and other educators across the Lone Star State have taught our students well. They know the forces of goodness, fairness, and equality when they see them. They know what side of history they want to be on and they will be voting in 2022 and beyond.


Bryan J Henry, M.Ed; M.A. has been teaching social studies in Houston area public schools for over a decade and is currently a professor of Political Science at Lone Star College. He previously ran for the Texas House of Representatives in the Cypress area.

[This article originally appeared on Medium.com: https://bryanjameshenry.medium.com/the-gops-dangerous-desperation-14d644ebcc80 and is republished here with permission of the author.]