Editorial: The United States’ history cannot be erased


Cassidy Smith

Editorial Board

It’s no secret that America continues to struggle with systemic racism that was woven into the fabrics of the nation since its founding. Legislators have not stopped trying to sugarcoat and conceal our nation’s daunting, but nonetheless very real history. The attacks on the teaching of our history, specifically relating to race, have made their way into Texas’ K-12 public school classrooms. 

Passed in the 2021 legislative session to take effect on September 1st, HB 3979 aims to restrict how teachers can talk to their students about current events and America’s history of racism. Many conservatives have labeled this as Critical Race Theory, or CRT, an academic philosophy over 40 years old that examines the impact of race and racism on U.S. laws and policies. 

The Eagle’s Eye believes that HB 3979 is a misguided, politically motivated attempt to hinder the understanding of our nation’s history in K-12 classrooms. 

Though none of the bills explicitly name CRT, it’s more than clear that the law is politically motivated by Republican legislators. HB 3979 states that a teacher “may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” 

The wording of the bill is intentionally and purposely broad so as to fit any kind of condition or circumstance, which could simply be that a parent doesn’t like what’s being talked about in the classroom. It doesn’t directly state what is permissible to talk about and what is prohibited, making it very easy to manipulate. Prohibiting what can be talked about in itself is an infringement and violation of our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. 

According to Governor Greg Abbott, HB 3979 is a “strong move” to abolish CRT. However, CRT itself, as a study in academia based in legal theory, is not something that’s taught within K-12 classrooms, but rather within post-secondary institutions. It’s impossible to keep CRT out of K-12 classrooms because it’s not something that’s in them in the first place. The concept of CRT is being misrepresented by Republican legislators, who are labeling any discussion of race or racism as CRT in order to prevent students from learning accurate history. 

Preventing students from learning accurate history through anti-CRT legislation would only be putting students at an academic disadvantage, especially for social studies classes that often require students to interpret and reflect back on historical events from multiple perspectives. Students would not only be missing out on a more rigorous classroom experience, but would also be robbed of their ability to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills. 

Hurting us even more, anti-CRT legislation puts students at an emotional disadvantage. For a minority or student of color, sitting in a U.S. history classroom and completely neglecting the impact of race, completely neglecting all of the pain and hurt that slaves or Native Americans experienced, is going to be distressing and traumatizing. Teaching us to hide our past is only going to make us feel like we need to be ashamed of who we are, both as individuals and as a nation. 

While Republican legislators fear that CRT is going to be a way to instill feelings of guilt and ideas of self-demoralization within white students, what they don’t realize is that a teacher would never intentionally make a student feel guilty, especially not for something that happened in the past. No teacher would ever tell a white student that slavery is their fault. If Republican legislators are fearful of what they think is going on in a classroom – teachers pointing fingers at students – then they should take a step into one of our classrooms and watch our teachers in action, preserving the accounts of our nation’s history while providing a challenging curriculum and pushing students to their academic potentials. 

Teachers shouldn’t have to come to work questioning if today is the day that they’re going to lose their jobs, or even worse, be unable to further pursue their careers that they’ve worked incredibly hard for. It is the teachers’ responsibilities and professional obligations to make sure that students enter the real world not just aware of our nation’s history, but also as well-rounded adults, both of which go hand in hand. When teachers are prevented from doing their jobs, students will no longer enter the real world with the right set of skills that they’ll need to succeed, thus harming the future of our nation. 

Regardless of the color of your skin, our nation’s historical wrongdoings aren’t going to be something that anybody enjoys talking about or takes pride in. Talking about Jim Crow laws or about the nature of slavery or about the genocide of Native Americans isn’t supposed to be comfortable for anybody. But it’s something that must be talked about so as to not allow history to repeat itself. We can’t turn back time and change or erase the past, but what we can do is learn from our nation’s mistakes and do better. 

We believe that the way to do better, the way to “form a more perfect Union” as our founders once said, is to come together as a nation and reflect upon our history. It is imperative to realize that pitting us against each other based on our skin color isn’t going to get us anywhere. Rather, we believe in coming together to perpetuate and amplify the voices of the past in an effort to improve our future.