Texas Republicans are ramming through legislation to remove teaching about MLK Jr. in public schools

Martin Luther King Jr., the Ku Klux Klan and women's suffrage are stripped from curriculum under GOP-backed bill

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published July 20, 2021 3:42PM (EDT)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

The Texas Senate approved a GOP-backed education bill backed on the moral panic against the so-called critical race theory that eliminates any requirements for public schools to teach students about Martin Luther King Jr., the Ku Klux Klan, women's suffrage, and a number of topics related to the Civil Rights movement. 

Presently, Texas law requires that public school teachers adequately instruct their students on "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

However, the bill, advanced on Friday along an 18-4 vote in the Republican-led Texas Senate, will effectively give school districts the choice to shape their own history curriculums. S.B. 3 falls in line with the broader conservative push to abolish educational mandates on what history teachers can and cannot teach in the classroom. 

Last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, a Republican, signed a law instructing schools on how to teach students about particular issues of justice while eschewing the notion that present-day individuals bear responsibility for the unjust actions of their ancestors. Contained within the bill was a specific section mandating that students are taught about "historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations."

Examples of such accomplishments included "women's suffrage and equal rights", "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong", "Chicano movement," and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. 

In S.B. 3, however, the mandatory instruction of these accomplishes was scrapped.

Proponents of the bill have largely framed the measure as pushback against big government "indoctrination" by the left, arguing that use of critical race theory is in fact racist in itself for telling minorities that they are oppressed. 

As Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently said, the bill rejects "philosophies that espouse that one race or sex is better than another." Patrick added the bill stems from parents who "want their students to learn how to think critically, not be indoctrinated by the ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism."

Democrats have meanwhile railed against the bill, framing it as a way for the Texas school system to whitewash American history. 

As CNN's Julian Zelizer put in an op-ed: The "kinds of bills that we are seeing pass in states like Texas amount to the imposition of a very particular version of patriotic education that seeks to downplay the failures and injustices of the United States. This quickly becomes propaganda rather than history."

The bill has yet to be officially made into law as it is awaiting a House vote. Though, with 51 House Democrats currently absent from the legislature following a walkout over a nearly passed GOP-backed restrictive voting bill, the House will not have a quorum to vote on S.B. 3.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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1619 Bill Brief Critical Race Theory Education Jim Crow Slavery Texas