Texas Book Ban: Part II

Yesterday’s story covered new ‘book ban’ laws cropping up in conservative US states – like Senate Bill 3 in Texas. Purging school shelves of books on racism, LGBT+ issues and sex education has become a key tool of Republican attacks on critical race theory and beyond. This type of legislature is often dangerously vague and hypocritical.  

What’s in Texas’ Senate Bill 3?

The gist of Texas’ ‘book ban’ bill is that schools must not teach material that suggests “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex”. This phrasing essentially covers almost any lesson that touches on issues of race or sexuality in American history.

The bill also states if teachers “choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs,” they must “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

The ambiguity of this language led one Texan Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction to advise teachers “make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust [in a classroom library], that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

Republican Senator Bryan Hughes, who wrote Senate Bill 3, later denied that the law applied to matters of “good or evil” like the Holocaust.

Apart from the requirement not to give ‘deference to any one perspective’ on socio-political matters, the bill also removes several requirements from school curricula. Although it doesn’t outlaw such topics as Native American history and the civil rights movement, it makes them optional in Social Studies classes.

The updated Texas Bill makes many topics optional for curricula, including white supremacy, women’s suffrage and other ‘accomplishments of marginalized populations’.

Book bans – control and surveillance

Book cleansing has been the primary method for this purge of ‘minority group’ history and culture. Many were outraged at a letter Texas Republican State Rep Matt Krause sent to the Texas Education Agency in October.

The letter included a 16-page list of hundreds of books. Mr Krause asked the Agency to make public any Texan schools that possessed copies of the listed books, and how much money they had spent on obtaining them. He also asked schools to report any books they had that mentioned sexually transmitted diseases, HIV or AIDS.

Books on LGBT+ issues made up the biggest category on Krause’s list, but he also flagged books addressing racism, pretty much any mention of sex education (including any mention at all of teen pregnancy or abortion), and books teaching students about their rights (like We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and about Students).

Texas Senate Bill 3 gives schools loopholes to create a white-centred curriculum, reinforce toxic purity culture and alienate queer and gender-non-conforming students. In other states, Orwellian control is threatening to go even further.

Conservative Iowan lawmakers are pushing for a bill that will have cameras installed in classrooms so parents can monitor lessons over livestream. Iowa’s Senate President, Jake Chapman, said he believes teachers should be criminally responsible for allowing children to read ‘obscene’ books.

Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of these new laws, supposedly designed to ‘protect’ children

Teachers are also confused and concerned about what the language of the bill means. Last year a teacher was already reprimanded for having her student borrow This Book Is Anti-Racist from her class library.

As one teacher pointed out, “One of the questions we’re supposed to ask is ‘Does the writer have a neutral stance on the topic?’ Well, if you are Toni Morrison, how can you have a neutral stance toward racism?”

Cover photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash.

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