On June 17, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law declaring that teachers can no longer teach critical race theory in their classrooms. As Jennifer Bendery reported in the Black Agenda Report, “The Texas measure is part of a nationwide effort by conservative Republicans to enact laws that prevent the teaching of ‘critical race theory.’” According to the legislation, social studies teachers in public K-12 schools “may not be compelled” to talk about current events, public policy, or social issues deemed to be controversial. If they do address them in the classroom, Texas teachers are required to present the issue “without giving deference to any one perspective.”
As Bendery noted, the Texas law “goes a bit further than those of other states” by preventing students from participating in public policy advocacy as part of a civics or social studies class. The law’s language is written so broadly, Bendery reported, that it applies to students “engaging in the most basic of civic activities, such as communicating with their own elected officials about a particular topic.”
According to state Democratic Rep. James Talarico, a former middle school teacher, “The bill is written in kind of a clever way…. You can talk about race in the classroom, but you can’t talk about privilege. … It doesn’t outright ban talking about race, but the idea is to put in landmines so any conversation about race in the classroom would be impossible.”
Most of the coverage of this Texas bill was from local newspapers such as the Texas Tribune and the San Antonio Current. These independent papers provide an accurate glimpse of the events and issues surrounding the bill’s signing. Larger news outlets have devoted virtually no attention to this event. One story was published by the local ABC News affiliate, but ABC simply reprinted the Texas Tribune’s article. Instead, much of the broader news coverage surrounding critical race theory delves into explicit instances of conflict, especially as incited between schools and families. It’s reasonable to infer that coverage of legislation specifically, as outlined by Jennifer Bendery, struggled to captivate mainstream audiences in a comparable capacity and was thus limited to local publications. No other news article covered the story as accurately as Bendery had. Her story provided a more complete understanding of the issue because establishments news sources have devoted more attention to the rising conflict caused by this legislation, rather than the legislation itself.
Source: Jennifer Bendery, “Texas Governor Signs Law to Stop Teachers from Talking about Racism,” Black Agenda Report, June 23 2021.
Student Researchers: Annie Feather, Tanner Carlson, Sydney Lippiello, and Owen Thoft-Brown (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)