A Texas mother identifying herself as Jenna told the State Board of Education that its first graders should not be learning about Mahatma Gandhi because she considers such instruction part of critical race theory.
“This revision wants to teach a first grader whose still putting notes to the Tooth Fairy under her pillow about following Gandhi’s lead to a peaceful protest,” Jenna said. A first grader! CRT is already rampant and baked into our curriculum and we don’t want to be good little global citizens where our borders are considered a military zone.”
State Board of Education member Marisa Perez-Diaz quickly noted that Jenna had not identified a specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standard that she was upset about — after which Jenna accused the board member of “belittling” her.
“These parents are confused and we don’t know,” Jenna said. “So I’m sorry — I’m up here testifying because we don’t understand. But I know the result.”
The State Board of Education is currently considering a new social studies curriculum for K-12 students. Elsewhere in her testimony, Jenna said that the current revision of TEKS looked to her like “collectivism” at the expense of “individualism” and said falsely claimed that the US-Mexico border is “open.”
The fight against CRT, or critical race theory, has been a central feature of Texas Republican politics over the last several years. Critical race theory is a decades-old academic concept holding that race is socially constructed and that racism is a systemic power structure, but conservative activists and Republican politicians have broadened that definition to include all manner of teaching about the effects of race and racism in the US.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning federal employees from taking trainings including “critical race theory” or “white privilege”. The next year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill banning the teaching of CRT in Texas schools — strictly limiting how teachers can teach about current events, banning teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, and prohibiting students from recieving course credit for participating in civic activities.
That bill has not been the only threat to academic freedom in the state’s public schools. Last October, State Rep Matt Krause sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency asking if schools in the state had any of a list of 850 books on a range of subjects including human rights and gender that he felt could be objected to. Some school districts in Texas have removed books from their libraries or classrooms due to challenges from parents.
Now, as the state considers a new social studies curriculum, many of those parents are again making their voices heard.
Challenged again later on by Ms Perez-Diaz to provide a specific example or examples of TEKS standards she took issue with, Jenna was unable to do so. Instead, she said that an indeterminate had dedicated their lives to the fight against so-called critical race theory.
“We parents quit our jobs,” Jenna said. “We left our careers. And we have gone to school board meeting after school board meeting, and we have spent hours and thousands of them ourselves trying to ask questions, as you’ve suggested, digging for information… I’m here because the school boards won’t answer.”
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