GOP lawmakers want to ban "woke philosophies" like critical race theory in Texas schools

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Texas lawmakers are seeking to limit how and what public school students are taught about race. Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

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Mirroring moves by other red-state legislatures across the country, Texas Republicans are attempting to reach into classrooms and limit what public school students are taught about the nation's historical subjugation of people of color.

Two bills moving through the Texas Legislature would bar the teaching of critical race theory, an academic discipline that views race as a social construct and examines how racism has shaped legal and social systems.

Decrying critical race theory has emerged as a common refrain among conservative Republicans nationwide, but the Texas legislation would go further by discouraging Texas students from discussing current events or controversial public policy issues.

“Texans reject critical race theory and other so-called ‘woke’ philosophies that maintain that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex or that any individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said last week in a statement endorsing the legislation. “These divisive concepts have been inserted into curriculums around the state, but they have no place in Texas schools.”

But educators and social justice experts see the efforts as an attack on the state’s civic education curriculum at a time when students should be learning more, not less, about civics, social justice and history.

“There is more attention being given than ever before to the societal problem [of civic education] and how to fix it, which is why Texas, like every other state in the union right now, has so many civic education bills being put forth,” said Wendy May-Dreyer, who leads the Texas Civic Education Coalition. “The problem is we have a small faction who’s trying to quash that effort, that progress forward, and if we miss our opportunity, the Legislature doesn’t meet for another two years, and we likely have just missed the boat completely.”