Texas's Law Against Critical Race Theory Is Why Kids In One District Can't Have Nice Things
Texas's dumb law forbidding the teaching of "critical race theory" has led the school district in McKinney, Texas, to eliminate a popular elective program that gave students the chance to participate in a mock legislature and learn how bills are written. The district's Youth and Government program had been a matter of pride for the schools, touted by the district as a "perennial standout" in its middle and high schools. But an attorney for the district advised that the program might fall afoul of the new law, House Bill 3979, which will go into effect September 1.
Beyond banning anything that might make white parents uncomfortable about America's history, HB 3979 also bars classes that require "political activism" or awarding grades or course credit for any classes "involving social or public policy advocacy," and puts strict limits on classroom discussion of current events, requiring that "both" sides of any issue be presented equally and "fairly." That must make science classes a load of fun, too.
While the classes have been eliminated, the schools' extracurricular Youth and Government club will continue, although the time kids spent in the class really helped them with crafting bills to introduce in the mock legislature. The Texas Tribune didn't say whether any of the student-written bills in the state organization, which is sponsored by the YMCA, ever matched the perfect idiocy of HB 3979.
The Texas Tribune's description makes Youth and Government sound like a really nifty social studies class. Too bad, kids:
Every year, students researched current issues, proposed and debated their own public policy, and competed in a mock legislature and elections process for statewide offices. Since the program's arrival to McKinney in 2005 as a club, seven of the district's middle school students have been elected governor — the program's top honor — at the statewide conference in Austin. In 2017, the district added an elective option: Seventh and eighth graders in two of the district's middle schools could now receive course credit for participating in the program.
Here's the section of the law that the district worried the class would run afoul of:
A school district, open-enrollment charter school, or teacher may not require, make part of a course, or award a grade or course credit, including extra credit, for a student's:
(A) political activism, lobbying, or efforts to persuade members of the legislative or executive branch at the federal, state, or local level to take specific actions by direct communication; or
(B) participation in any internship, practicum, or similar activity involving social or public policy advocacy;
The bill's "author," state Rep Steve Toth (R) — or at least he's the dude who copy-pasted much of it from a model bill used by several states — told the Tribune he didn't think the class ran afoul of the law because it "doesn't have anything to do with lobbying members," but that completely ignores the bans on "political activism" or "activity involving social or public policy advocacy," which are conveniently not defined in HR 3979.
The whole mess really just made the program's former teacher in McKinney sad:
Judith Anderson-Bruess, the McKinney teacher who began the Youth and Government club, led it until her retirement two months ago and taught the elective, disagreed with the district's judgment that the program constituted political activism or policy advocacy.
"It was just a simulation," she said. "[Students] wrote bills, they learned parliamentary procedures." [...]
She said the elective gave students more time than the club to research and write substantive bills. She also said the elective made it easier to participate for low-income students and students of color, who had less means to commute to and from school outside of school hours.
"They were being successful," she said. "And now it's gone."
Well look at her dragging race and class into things right there, like some kind of radical America-hater who wants kids to learn stuff.
Also too, the Tribune notes that, whatever Rep. Toth thought about "his" bill, the actual author of the model legislation —the professional culture warrior Stanley Kurtz, who wrote the very serious politics book Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism — is no fan of these terrible classes that teach children about how government works.
[Kurtz] argued for the veto of a Florida bill that would have given some high school students college credit for Youth and Government. Toth said he "conferred" with Kurtz in crafting the law.
We have to wonder: Do kids taking part in the statewide mock legislature get to copy-paste entire bills from ALEC or the Heritage Foundation and then submit them, or does the YMCA program expect them to write their pretend legislation from scratch as if they were living in Olden Times?
We'd also love to see what would happen if some smartass high school kids were to introduce the exact text of HB 3979 in their mock legislative session. Bet it wouldn't "pass" with all those civics nerds taking part.
Maybe it's just as well the classes were deep-sixed. If Texas students learn too much about how their state's government actually operates, it might crush their youthful optimism and turn them into bitter old political bloggers.
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