Yesterday TCSS issued the press release below. Legislators want to hear from the teachers. HB3979 is up for a vote on May 4th. If passed it will likely become law - prohibiting teachers from discussions about current events or controversial topics and ending any privately funded professional development in social studies. Please take a few minutes to call your state representative.
Find your representative here.
For immediate release: April 30, 2021
Renee Blackmon, President
Civic Education? Not even close.
As an advocate for quality civics education, the Texas Council for the Social Studies implores Texas lawmakers to resist the overreach of state power proposed in SB2202 and HB3979. These bills conflict with current social studies state standards, disregard research-based best practices, ignore the testimony of Texas teachers, and fail to achieve Governor Abbott’s charge to advance quality civics education.
Several provisions of SB2202/HB3979 are unworkable, unrealistic, and unnecessarily punitive. First, these bills aim to exercise state power over classroom instruction by regulating and limiting the discussion of current events and controversial topics despite it being in stark opposition to the Texas social studies standards. Teachers are expected to prepare students to be informed citizens by learning skills for evaluating information as independent, critical thinkers. In order to do this, students must learn to grapple with the controversy of current events and the complexity of the past. Additionally, regardless of the deleterious impact these bills have on students as citizens, how will these restrictions on local control be enforced? Will social studies classrooms be policed? Will discussions of current events and controversial topics continue unmonitored in other subject areas?
Second, while this legislation purports to address civic education, it prohibits schools from encouraging students to participate in the democratic process. If enacted, SB2202/HB3979 would outlaw student involvement in community projects. Past examples such as students working with the local government to erect a stop sign at a dangerous intersection or students partnering with legislators to proclaim pecan pie the state pie of Texas would no longer be possible. While science classes have labs for students to practice, the student laboratory of democratic practice takes place outside of the classroom in partnership with teachers that model the values of the local community.
Third, this legislation serves to further marginalize social studies education with a prohibition on privately-funded professional development opportunities and resources for teachers in social studies. Our communities spend millions of dollars to equip classroom science laboratories to empower future scientists. Our schools accept millions of dollars in partnerships with big businesses to create STEM-schools. However the state has yet to match this investment towards preparing our students to be good citizens. The state has shown little commitment to providing professional development opportunities to social studies teachers, funding social studies classroom resources, or embracing any comprehensive policies to improve social studies education.
It is time for Texas legislators to hear the voices of those most affected by this legislation. Research-based non-partisan bills promoting quality civics education languish in committees today. Policies to improve civics education must emerge from a coalition and encompass a multifaceted approach, including professional development for teachers and support for student participation in civics-related activities. SB2202/HB3979 fall far short at improving civics education. State legislators should model the expectations of good citizenship we have for our students including identifying community issues that need addressing, building a broad coalition of support, deliberating on solutions that incorporate expert research, and implementing a measurable solution. Should these bills become law, success will be measured by the volume of silence.
The Texas Council for the Social Studies proudly represents the thousands of Texas social studies teachers and leaders who are entrusted with modeling good citizenship while passing down the story of Texas and America to a new generation. These passionate educators work tirelessly to fulfill Texas’ education mission of preparing “thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.”