It’s a rainy morning in Germany, which means that my dogs will be waiting for their walk again. Since there will be a delay, I have time to write another blog post. This one is about the continuing descent of Texas into a straight up dystopian land. It’s not enough that Governor Abbott has signed anti-abortion legislation that deprives women of the right to make personal decisions about their own reproduction. It’s not enough that Texas politicians have called for women who have abortions to be executed, or that hospitals have forced a pregnant woman in a coma to stay on life support, even as she basically decomposes. Now, the dystopia is spreading to the schools.
Yesterday, I read about how a top administrator in the Southlake district had controversial comments about what kinds of books teachers would have in their classroom libraries. Gina Peddy, the Carroll school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, was secretly recorded during a training session last week. According to NBC news:
“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” Peddy continued, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
WHAT? That was, I think, a brain dead comment if there ever was one. How do you share an opposing view of the Holocaust? I’d like to think Peddy simply misspoke, as we all sometimes do. I would hope she had a brain fart, perhaps brought on by the state of things in Texas today. It was certainly a thoughtless comment, though, and it doesn’t make me think too highly of the quality of education in Texas. Is it any wonder that so many teachers are leaving the profession when they not only have to deal with the whole COVID-19 situation, but they also have to contend with these kinds of intrusions on their teaching methods?
I read that this whole thing began when a fourth grade student brought home a book called “This Book Is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell. The girl’s mother objected to the book’s content and complained to her daughter’s teacher. When the teacher did not respond in a way that satisfied the parent, the battle over what kinds of books are appropriate intensified. Local officials investigated the mother’s complaints about the teacher and declined to intervene, but the Carroll school board overturned the decision and voted 3-2 to formally reprimand the teacher. That decision, of course, made other teachers feel threatened, since they figured the board would side against them if other parents decided to complain about books in their classroom libraries.
Evidently, there’s a huge controversy about what is being taught in Texas schools. Some Southlake parents have been fighting against new inclusion and diversity programs at Carroll for over a year. They are opposed to lessons about racism, history (that paints white people in a negative light), or LGBTQ issues. Some of the parents have incorrectly identified the “progressive” lessons as promoting “critical race theory”. That’s how the new law, Texas House Bill number 3979, came to fruition.
Texas House Bill number 3979 is supposed to encourage teachers to present multiple viewpoints of controversial topics. I’m sure the law was intended to address the concern that some people have that their children will be fed a political agenda that doesn’t align with their preferred views… or that white children will somehow be made to feel guilty for the fact that they’re white. Personally, I can understand why some parents worry about that. I happen to agree that no one should feel ashamed of who they are, particularly when it comes to things they can’t change. That includes so-called “privileged” people.
However… there are some subjects that are sacred. The Holocaust is one of those topics where there is no “other view”. There have been people who have denied that the Holocaust happened, or they try to present it in a way that is sympathetic to the Nazi movement. Make no mistake about it. The Holocaust was absolutely horrifying; it’s real; and it didn’t happen all that long ago. Now, more than ever, we must be aware of the danger that can come from turning a blind eye to what happened in Europe during the 1930s and 40s. It was less than 100 years ago… and frankly, whenever I see Donald Trump rally a crowd, I’m reminded a lot of how Hitler came to power.
When a teacher asked Gina Peddy how one might oppose the Holocaust, Peddy’s response was “Believe me. That’s come up.” Wow… REALLY?
There was a time when I considered becoming a school teacher. I went to a college that is very well known for producing outstanding teachers. Many of my friends are teachers. But honestly, after reading about some of the crazy stuff teachers have to deal with nowadays, I am kind of glad that notion went by the wayside. It seems like back in my day, parents trusted and respected teachers more than they do now. I have seen what goes in to making teachers, and what they have to do to be qualified to teach. They don’t get paid a lot in many places, even though their value is immeasurable and they are vital to human development.
I am pretty appalled that someone in the education system in Texas suggested that teachers should present opposing views to the Holocaust, even if that comment was made due to a massive brain fart. It really is embarrassing. And I can see why teachers are so concerned. One elementary school teacher said:
“Teachers are literally afraid that we’re going to be punished for having books in our classes. There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposing perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposing perspective’ of slavery. Are we supposed to get rid of all of the books on those subjects?”
Imagine having to grade masses of papers, answer dozens of irate emails and phone calls, AND be concerned that the books you’ve chosen for your classroom library might be deemed controversial, even when the validity of the subject matter is not in dispute. Teachers definitely have a tough job, and this kind of situation only makes it tougher…
And once again, it makes me glad I don’t have to deal with this problem myself. I think if I had children, I would want them to be free to read almost everything. I grew up with parents who mostly let me read what I wanted. All it did was open my mind and make me love reading. I really think this new law is misguided, even if it was well-intentioned. This situation ought to be fixed as soon as possible, before more excellent teachers decide to change careers.