On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten criticized anti-critical race theory laws “that contradict the standards that our professional obligations tell us we have to teach” and cited Texas’ law as an example because it “basically says that teachers are supposed to say that slavery is a betrayal of the founding principles of our country. Now, you know that that’s not true.” Weingarten also argued that people on the right “have to find something else to create chaos and fear with” like they did with school reopenings.
Weingarten said states have passed laws “that contradict the standards that our professional obligations tell us we have to teach and we should be teaching. So, I’ll give you an example. Texas’ new law basically says, and I’m not quoting it, but it basically says that teachers are supposed to say that slavery is a betrayal of the founding principles of our country. Now, you know that that’s not true. I mean, there’s lots of great founding principles of our country, but slavery was embedded in the Constitution. It’s — and so, the question then becomes, so what does that mean, we can’t teach the Civil War? We can’t teach the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendment? We can’t teach Juneteenth? We can’t teach the Dred Scott decision? We can’t teach the Emancipation Proclamation? So, what we’ve said to our members is that let’s make sure that you can do what your professional obligations require, which is to teach an honest and accurate version of the history of the United States. And, yes, some of it is uncomfortable. Enslavement and discrimination are uncomfortable. But it works to help kids become critical thinkers when they understand the facts, when they can look at diverse perspectives, and draw their own conclusions. I think we become stronger if we can do that, and that’s what I went through with my members yesterday and said that we will defend that, just like in the Scopes trial of old, when we defended against…when people tried to stop the teaching of evolution, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
She later added, “What Trump did and what the right wing has learned from Trump is it’s constantly chaos and fear and creating that kind of uncertainty. And so, now that it’s clear that we’re going to be able to reopen schools safely in the fall and help kids recover, they have to find something else to create chaos and fear with. And we do not teach — probably the most important thing I can say to your viewers is that in high schools, elementary schools, and middle schools, we do not teach CRT. CRT is a theory in law school or in college that analyzes law and says, is there systemic racism that was attached to these laws or the effects of systemic racism? What we teach in high school or elementary school or middle school is we teach history, common history. And we want kids to be able to understand it and to analyze history.”
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett