Opinion: HB 3979 is an insidious cancer to education


House Bill 3979 is a hollow, inconspicuous attempt at politically corrupting the Texas schooling system. It claims to counter the imaginary threats of “Critical Race Theory” and Far-Left politics, but this is a facade for its true intention of thwarting any left-leaning social commentary in schools. The exposure to a wide range of ideas and viewpoints is a central part of what makes an educational system effectively accomplish its namesake: educate and expose students to a wide variety of ideas. The distribution of ideas from both sides of the aisle ensures unbiased instruction. Conversely, Bill 3979 underhandedly ensures that the only possible direction to lean is Right.

This Bill festers ignorance under superficial objectivity by claiming that if teachers, by their own volition, choose to discuss current-day issues, they must “strive to explore [topics] from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to anyone’s perspective.”(line 7, pg 2) Despite making numerous seemingly reasonable statements like this, the Bill wasn’t concocted to counter bias, but to eliminate any left-leaning political presence in the classroom; It doesn’t specifically prohibit discussion about topics like abortion, vaccines, or election fraud, but conflates caricatured “Critical Race Theory” talking points with left-leaning outlooks on society as if both are equally reproachable.

For context, Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is the latest political fad and source of uninformed outrage. It is an academic field that focuses on the intersection of race and law in modern society and is solely practiced at the collegiate and post-collegiate levels. However, the nuance and unorthodoxy of the field don’t stop it from drawing the mass media treatment from Fox News, CNN, and NBC. This media exaggeration has made it the centerpiece of educational uproar, and, despite the substantive absence of CRT in primary and secondary education, a vocal minority refuses to let the tiniest similarity go, whether it be the mere availability or the outright discussion of left-leaning ideas in schools.

Teachers’ main gripe with Bill 3979 is the ambiguity of its words: what specific topics need contrasting perspectives, and which ones don’t? Does the Holocaust, for example, need a contrasting perspective? The absurdity of requiring contention for a topic as one-sidedly malicious as the murder of 6 million Jews is made evident by the outrage towards CISD executive Gina Peddy and her request to “make sure that [if] you have a book on the Holocaust… you have one that has opposing… perspectives.” Giving her the benefit of the doubt, Mrs. Peddy either attempted to show the unreasonableness of that very notion or merely minced her words. But those words make one thing crystal clear: Bill 3979 is an insidious cancer to education underneath its “unbiased” sheen. 

The aforementioned ambiguity is partially reduced by the bill’s list of acceptable and reprehensible teaching topics, with it requiring US History to be taught with unwavering adherence to their defined list of topics, and any mention of race, gender, or wealth and their impacts on the modern socio-political state of America being specifically reproached. But because of its naïve distraction on the irrational threat that is CRT, it fails to aptly distinguish appropriate from inappropriate educational topics and material, confusing teachers and students alike. 

Mrs. Lisa Salyer, an AP English 3 teacher at Carroll Senior High School, has had her fair share of preceding conflict with book censorship over the years, and now struggles to digest the policy birthed from this bill: “Over the years, there have been cycles of censorship here in Carroll, as in communities across the U.S., though none of the previous have reached today’s frenzy about the specters of critical race theory, indoctrination, and obscenity.” The bill pushes already outrageous, yet unwrought censorship over the edge by setting its disgraceful rules in stone.  “Once, if a parent objected to his or her child’s assigned reading, we simply offered an alternative; today, the same objection can lead to a moratorium on a book for all students, not just the one in question,” she adds. A blockade for specific viewpoints makes opening students’  minds, a central responsibility of educators, nearly impossible: “To deny students the facts and information they need to develop their own opinions…to deny them conditions conducive for growth is to limit their capacity to adapt to a changing world and to essentially ensure conflict and discord in the years to come.”

 Per the general sentiment of the Bill, political action was taken by both CISD and the Texas government that confirms any suspicion of educational sabotage. Governor Abbott’s outrageously vague and implicit letter to Dr. Dan Troxell, the executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards, refers to “pornography” needing to be excised from school libraries. CNN attributes this description to LGBTQ books, which is likely a correct attribution doomed to never be confirmed, thus exempting him from any well-deserved backlash. His meandering around this tyrannical desire is a sign of the political gall that Bill 3979 reinforces. On the part of CISD, a 4th-grade teacher was reprimanded for merely making available a “social justice” book on a classroom bookshelf. This wasn’t a neo-Marxist propaganda pamphlet, but a children’s book with an “anti-racist” lean.

The making available of information is not and should not be synonymous with indoctrination.

The Carroll Senior High library is wonderfully stocked with a wide collection of classic literature, non-fiction books, and modern young adult novels. Consequently, there are bound to be books deemed biased and outrageous. For example, I’ve found and read “Mein Kampf”, by Adolf Hitler there, and that fact ought to be a great source of pride for every American as it embodies our democratic value of unrestricted information. But with legislation like Bill 3979, as well as the growing political sentiment surrounding it, LGBTQ and “social justice” books will leave the shelves even before Hitler’s self-pitying autobiography, only because of their opposing perspectives to the reigning legislation’s ideology. The legislators of Bill 3979 do not care about bias or keeping kids from harmful information; rather, they want political opposition out of schools.

I’m not arguing for a complete upheaval of objectivity in schools, nor the pressuring of students with political ideas. But at a certain point in a child’s educational career, these ideas should at least be made available, regardless of their supposedly evil and contrary perspectives (however, it must be noted that providing context to these topics is key). The bill is right to assume the general rule of unbiased instructive education, but it imbibes its persecution of left-leaning ideology, directly or indirectly through faux anti-critical race theory opposition, into that sentiment, thereby contradicting it. House Bill 3979 is a stark warning for the approaching political corruption of Texas Education, and the looming downfall of true objectivity, reason, and knowledge in the educational sphere. As Aristotle said with unwaning wisdom: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”