First, suffrage rights have been attacked by political powers in Texas. Now another key element of our democracy – public education – has become the main target of Governor Greg Abbott and the far-right Republican Party.
Why? Because Abbott and his allies focus more closely on their own political preservation than on the future of our state or the future of 5.4 million public school children in Texas. Instead of protecting and supporting democracy, it is trying to demolish it.
The attack on public education began seriously with the enactment of the so-called Critical Race Theory Act, which was intended to eradicate the teaching of racism and discourage class discussions on other issues that are uncomfortable for many conservative voters.
It is bad enough to interfere in teachers’ efforts to teach the whole truth about our history. But the deliberate vagueness of the law makes it worse. Some parents and school officials have already misinterpreted the law to absurd and hurtful extremes. In several cases, acclaimed books by black authors have been removed from school libraries and classrooms, and one school principal has even told teachers to have books in their classrooms that offer “opposite” views of the Holocaust.
These misinterpretations, whether intentional or not, will increase. In some districts, teachers work for fear that one of their classes or class discussions could be attacked by a parent or potential school board candidate, jeopardizing their careers.
Does Abbott care? Not if the law gets him votes in the next republican primaries.
Republican MP Matt Krause of Fort Worth continued to attack public education by threatening to witch hunts for several hundred books in school libraries and classrooms, most notably on racial relations, diversity, LGBTQ and sexuality.
Not to be outdone, Abbott took Krause’s threat to another extreme by writing to the Texas School Board Association to complain about alleged “pornography” in schools. He did not identify any specific books because he simply played to parents who may misuse the term “pornographic” to describe any book they do not like. The governor’s letter was another attack on public education.
Local school districts already have procedures in place to investigate parental complaints about books or other teaching materials they deem inappropriate.
Krause, a largely unknown lawmaker, is trying to increase the identification of his name for a nationwide battle for the Attorney General. Abbott is competing with two right-wing extremist challengers over who can make the most disgusting comments or take the most extreme positions ahead of the Republican Party’s March primaries, where extremism can help a lot to identify party nominees.
At the same time, they do not respect teachers, undermine public schools and restrict students. They seriously damage the institution of public education, which is much more important for the future of our state than the political career of anyone. And repairing damage can take a long time.