Experts on critical race theory: We should be encouraging dialogue, not limiting it

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 4:00 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - A bill that recently passed in the State House of Representatives would limit how race is allowed to be taught in Texas classrooms. It would ban or limit the teaching of critical race theory, an academic discipline that examines how racism has shaped legal and social systems within the United States and views race as a social construct.

Those opposed argue that limiting how teachers teach, especially with regards to race, is a dangerous game.

Camille Gibson, the Dean of the Prairie View A&M University College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology was on First News at Four on Friday.

“Critical race theory is the idea that a certain race or races have power and to sustain that position of power, that group may engage in law or policy to see that that advantage is maintained,” Gibson said.

Critical race theory has been around for decades, but Gibson says more current events have shaped the way it has been taught.

“Since the killing of George Floyd, I am aware that a number of persons across the country have talked about the need for race education in America,” Gibson said. “There have been entities who have helped school districts with curriculum.”

However, there has been pushback.

“Some persons have an objection to the entire history being discussed. But quite frankly, unless we cover our entire history, we will not be having an honest examination of our history inside the classrooms,” Gibson said.

Gibson says that the more heterogeneous a school district is, the more parents may complain.

“So teachers will feel muzzled or pressured to not cover certain topics, and that will have a chilling effect on the classrooms,” Gibson said. “When public events occur, classrooms are usually safe spaces for young people to process the day’s events with their teachers and their peers. But now we have a law that says you can’t process the news of the day in a safe, academic environment.”

On News 3 Now earlier this month, Bryan ISD Superintendent Christie Whitbeck talked about how the district goes about addressing current issues. Whitbeck says prior to this school year, teachers were given specific training in the social studies department on civil discourse and how to navigate it inside the classroom.

“Current events, in my lifetime, have always played a role inside the classroom,” Whitbeck said. “With that said, we follow what the legislature tells us to do.”

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s capital this year, Whitbeck says many of her teachers were proud of their students for talking about what happened in Washington DC and discussing it in a mature manner.

“They were respectful of each other,” Whitbeck said. “We must prepare students for how they navigate these difficult times…that is the root of what we do.”

Supporters of the bill argue that it will ensure that no teacher includes race-related concepts like “One race or sex is inherently superior” or that someone is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” based on their race or sex.” Gibson says critical race theory talks about what the laws, policies, structures and the behaviors do, not that people are inherently racist.

“It talks about actions,” Gibson said. ”It is proper education to present the various sides of different issues and arguments and cover them as objectively as possible. It’s really unfortunate at this sensitive time in our history that we have persons who want laws to limit dialogue instead of encourage dialogue.”

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