SOUTHLAKE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – Some members of a North Texas community and Jewish groups speak out against controversial new state law after administrator comments on Holocaust books.
The school principal told teachers that if they have books on the Holocaust in their classroom libraries, they should also include books that present “opposing” views.
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“It’s almost like a joke, what would be an opposing view of the Holocaust? A teacher from the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, where the comment was made, told CNN. The teacher did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal.
Carroll ISD superintendent Lane Ledbetter apologized on Thursday after a recording of the practice session in which the comment was made was leaked. The audio, first reported by NBC News, was secretly recorded by a member of staff.
Gina Peddy, the district’s executive director of programs and education, can be heard using the Holocaust as an example of a historic event that would require the presentation of opposing views. At the time, she was advising elementary teachers how to follow the district’s new guidelines for auditing books after teachers expressed frustration and confusion over the new law affecting the curriculum.
The guidelines were issued in an attempt to align with Texas law HB 3979, which seeks to restrict discussion of race and history in schools.
The law, one of many legislative efforts to ban critical race theory from American classrooms, was signed by Governor Greg Abbott and came into effect on September 1. and currently a controversial public policy or social affairs issue. If a teacher engages in such a discussion, the teacher should “explore these issues from diverse and conflicting perspectives without showing deference to any particular perspective”.
Critics argue that the law is not only confusing for teachers, but also has an impact on teachers’ ability to responsibly educate American children about historical events.
“This was the anti-Semitic and systematic murder of 6 million Jews and there is no legitimate prospect of ‘opposing’ it,” said Joel Schwitzer, regional director of the American Jewish Committee in Dallas.
“When I listened to the audio what I heard was an administrator who was desperately trying to figure out how to operate in this environment with no clear indication of what can be considered a controversial topic,” he added. . “This law will have a chilling effect on schools, administrators and teachers and that is what we see here.”
“There are no two sides to the Holocaust”
The Carroll ISD teacher who spoke to CNN said fear, ignorance and racism are the driving forces behind the pressure to control how certain historical events are taught in classrooms.
“We’re not being asked to have opposing views on colonization, we’re not being asked to have opposing views on Christopher Columbus or Thanksgiving,” the teacher said. “We are asked to have opposing views on only certain things and that is really where the problem lies.”
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When asked what teachers were asked to have opposing views on, the teacher replied: “Civil rights movement, the Holocaust, civil war, slavery, women’s rights” .
The debate even put the lives of educators in danger, added the teacher.
“Teachers are actively receiving threats if they speak out at this point, to destroy their lives, to come and get their license, to attack their families,” said the teacher. “We are starting to feel like children of divorce, as if these two camps are arguing and we are becoming collateral damage.”
Texas State Teachers Association spokesperson Clay Robison said he was angry but not surprised at the comments made during the Carroll ISD training session.
He noted that while the law does not specifically address books in teachers’ classrooms or specifically require that a teacher give equal weight to perspectives that deny the Holocaust, he said the law is sufficiently ambiguous to “encourage this kind of reaction”.
Some parents are also concerned about the impact of HB3979 on their children’s education and communities.
“It’s very sad the situation we find ourselves in right now,” said Lavandera Russell Maryland, a Southlake resident and father of three who attended the city’s schools.
“The world is changing. The city is changing. And unfortunately, you have a bunch of people in this city who are afraid of change. And what are the fearful doing? Instill fear.
Maryland, a former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman, has spent the past three years working with other parents to develop a diversity program for the city’s schools.
“It’s happening, it’s happening here in our community as a warning to everyone,” Maryland said. “If you don’t get up now, then this ignorance is happening to a town near you.”
As for views “opposed” to the Holocaust, Anti-Defamation League vice-president Oren Segal told CNN New Day that it was outright anti-Semitism.
“The idea that opposing views on the Holocaust would seem legitimate to anyone is perhaps a sign of the times,” Segal said. “It’s anti-Semitism, it’s Holocaust denial, and that’s what drives extremists. There are not two sides to this issue, there are not two sides to the Holocaust. “
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