Texas' 'critical race theory' may be tricky for teachers to navigate

ByCourtney Carpenter KTRK logo
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Educators respond to signing of "critical race theory" bill
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Critical race theory is used to examine the structural causes of racial inequality. But a Texas bill says it cannot be taught to students K-12. Now, the conversation is heating up!

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Critical race theory is an academic framework used to examine structural causes of racial inequality. Now, Gov. Greg Abbott said it cannot be taught to students K-12 in Texas public schools.

Dr. Portia Hopkins, an American studies professor at Lee College in Baytown, said this new law may be tricky for teachers to navigate, saying there is not a lot of clear instruction on what teachers cannot do.

"You might get into a situation where you're talking about a current event. This current event is very clearly connected to a past historic event like the Civil Rights movement, Civil Rights amendments and now, it's not really clear to me how much context I can give the students in order for them to understand the social, political and cultural context that these particular historic events are happening within," explained Hopkins.

SEE ALSO: How Texas 'critical race theory' bill could impact teachers

Coretta Mallet-Fontenot is one of the teachers who will be working with this new law. She teaches 11th grade at Chavez High School.

"When you have the truth, and the truth is based on facts, not opinions. It's based on facts. You should be able to teach that regardless of how beautiful that truth is or how damaging that truth may be," said Mallet-Fontenot.

She said she's worried about the impact it will have on her classroom.

"Being able to give kids the historical context in which those things were meant to affect or direct society's attention to is going to be very limited, because now when I teach 'The Crucible,' how or will I be allowed to make the connection to McCarthyism and those hearings that took place?"

Still, some are glad the legislation passed. A man named Steve, who did not disclose his full name, said he believes it's dividing the country.

"I'm pleased that it was signed. It needed to be done. Again, I am not against the teaching of critical race theory as a theory, I'm against it being taught, forced upon people. I'm against it being used as a wedge in this country," Steve expressed.

SEE ALSO: TX Bill seeks to strip required lessons on people of color and women from "critical race theory" law

When it comes to how much this legislation will actually impact the classroom, Hopkins said it may not be a dramatic change.

"Probably not much, you know? The TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) still requires you to teach about the Civil Rights movement. The TEKS still requires you to talk about Fredrick Douglass and Du Bois. The TEKS still requires you to cover certain things. What I will say is going to continue being a challenge for instructors is how critical race theory or the 'abolition' of critical race theory is going to be enforced at the local level," said Hopkins.