UT professors say ‘critical race theory’ bill is harmful to students’ learning

Marisa Huerta

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the June 14 flipbook.

UT professors said a bill that would ban discussion of racial inequality in schools harms students’ education and social awareness in the classroom.

House Bill 3979, also known as the “critical race theory” bill, was recently passed in both chambers of the Texas Legislature. The bill was then sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk to sign June 1 and is awaiting action. 

Sponsored by Republican lawmakers, the bill limits discussion of current events in the classroom and says teachers cannot be compelled to discuss issues such as systemic racism. Should the conversation occur, teachers must explore various perspectives without giving deference to one perspective, according to the bill.

Robert Reece, an assistant professor of sociology, said the bill’s utilization of critical race theory as its focal point is a cover for any and all discussions of race, and that professors don’t need to indoctrinate students.

 “I don’t have to choose a side to teach people the truth,” Reece said. “We all acknowledge, because the data tells us all, that racial inequality is real, and they’re trying to roll us back to a point of debating that very simple fact, rather than having productive discussions about what we’re dealing with and how to make it better.”

Reece said professors already teach from an objective perspective and this reality is one the legislature chooses not to acknowledge. 

“They’re trying to actually prevent us from teaching from that objective perspective,” Reece said. “They want us to teach from a biased perspective and pretend that there are two sides to an issue when there really is only one side, and that side is that racial inequality is real.”

Cossy Hough, a clinical associate professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, said open discussions about historical events, such as lynchings and redlining, should be a significant curriculum component.

“The U.S. has been in this time of racial reckoning over the past year, and there has been more awareness about what has been left out in the history many of us were taught in Texas,” Hough said. “Limiting critical discussions around events like this and the systemic oppression of Black and brown people in the U.S. doesn’t make these events and systems go away.”

In a statement released last month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded to criticisms from various educators across Texas.

“When parents send their children to school, they want their students to learn critical thinking without being indoctrinated with misinformation charging that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism,” Patrick said in the statement.

Hough said opponents of critical race theory tend to interpret its message as white people being inherently racist, but it ultimately teaches students to evaluate systems of power.

 “(Critical race theory) isn’t about saying that some people are racist just because of their race,” Hough said. “It’s more about the systemic racism present in our current systems such as education, criminal justice, housing, etc.”

Maya Shankar, a psychology senior and student activist, said the bill is an attempt to conceal the nature of the country’s origins.

 “I feel like they’re just providing less opportunities for students to actually be taught the real history and background of the U.S.,” Shankar said.