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For decades, educators and students across the country have pushed schools, colleges, and universities to teach a more truthful and inclusive version of American history. Texas is pushing back.
This week, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law establishing the 1836 Bill, which creates a nine-member advisory committee to “promote patriotic education” on the Texas succession from Mexico in 1836 and other historic events. In addition, it aims to “raise awareness of the values ââof Texas which continue to drive unlimited prosperity in this state.”
âTo keep Texas the best state in the country, we can never forget WHY our state is so exceptional,â the Republican governor tweeted after enacting the bill. “I signed a law establishing Project 1836, which promotes patriotic education and ensures that future generations understand TX’s values. Together, we will keep our rich history alive.”
Texas Democrats like Gilbert Hinojosa, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, opposed Bill 1836, calling it an attempt to “whitewash Texas history through indoctrination disguised as legislation.”
Another bill that would limit the way educators talk about current events and racism in the classroom was also recently sent to the governor’s office.
Marvin Dulaney, Deputy Director and Director of Operations at the African American Museum of Dallas, has long fought for more inclusion and truth in the storytelling of US and Texas history. To say that the battle was difficult would be an understatement. It’s more like climbing a mountain.
Since the late 1960s, Dulaney has been involved in what has become the Black Studies Movement.
He remembers being a student at Ohio State University where he says he learned the same “white supremacist story that our country has been teaching for over 200 years.” It was only after putting pressure on his teachers that he was allowed to seek out the African-American experience.
In 1975, Dulaney taught his first African American history class and has since fought for the right of educators to do the same. He also worked to integrate Hispanic and Native American history into the education system. Opponents often tell Dulaney that there isn’t enough time to teach this whole story. But, it is apparently time to teach “the Christian heritage of this state, the heritage of this state of keeping and carrying firearms for the defense of life and liberty and for the hunt,” for these are priorities in the Texas project.
Project 1836 is the product of HB 2497 from Representative Tan Parker. Parker did not respond to a request for comment, but told the Observer in April, its goal was to highlight “Lone Star State’s culture of opportunity for every citizen and [preserve] the diverse history of our state while celebrating the strong values ââthat have enabled decades of unlimited prosperity.
The project committee will also be responsible for ensuring that “patriotic education” about Texas is provided to people at state parks, landmarks, monuments and museums. A brochure on the history of Texas will also be given to anyone who receives a Texas driver’s license.
Inspired by former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission, now canceled, it is an ironic speech on The New York Times‘”Project 1619.” Time‘examined slavery and racism in US history.
Historians have criticized the Texas project, but a history professor at Southern Methodist University sees it a little differently.
âHistorians are looking at Bill 1836 signed by Greg Abbott and pretty much,â SMU history professor Brian Franklin said in a Twitter thread about the project. âThis is pure rhetoric inflamed by cultural wars, a response to a virtually non-existent threat from critical race theory. But if we just throw it away, we are missing out on the good news of “the opportunity.”
As a historian, Franklin is used to reading and interpreting primary documents. The text of the bill says it promotes “patriotic education” in “Texas values” through “knowledge of the founding documents” of Texas history, the professor said. For Franklin, this represents an opportunity.
“We get read the TX Dec. of Ind. with our students, âhe said. “We get to discuss the Mexican constitution and colonization laws: how Santa Anna suspended the constitution AND how the Anglos have consistently broken / twisted Mexican laws, in particular. The abolition of slavery in Mexico.
He said educators should take this opportunity with students to read and identify the values ââof the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas. “We will find all kinds of Texan values: a divided government, a strong Congress, no religious establishment, the right to bear arms,” ââFranklin said. Here are others: Slaves must remain slaves, slave owners must be allowed to emigrate to Texas, it is illegal to emancipate a slave, and free blacks cannot live in Texas without consent.
âSo yes, this bill of 1836 is partisan, unnecessary and ahistoric,â Franklin said. âBUT, after teaching Texas history for a few years now, I can vouch for it: this is an opportunity. When you read these founding documents with the students, they will see: freedom, slavery and everything in between. “
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