It sounded like snark.
When the reports first emerged that a Texas school administrator was advising schools to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust, I assumed that some late-night comedian was making a point. After all, what are the arguments for genocide? But I was wrong. Texas–where the governor insists that life-saving vaccines are optional–wants schoolchildren to have the benefit of “both sides” of the argument whether it’s okay to murder six million people.
A Texas school district official told educators if they kept books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they would have to also offer “opposing” viewpoints in order to comply with a new state law.
In an audio clip obtained by NBC News, Gina Peddy, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for Carroll independent school district in Southlake, offered the guidance to teachers during a training on which books teachers can keep in classroom libraries.
The directive came as part of a training session during which a fourth-grade teacher was reprimanded for having a book on anti-racism in her class.
It followed the passage of a new Texas law that requires teachers who discuss “widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs” to examine the issues from diverse viewpoints without giving “deference to any one perspective”.
At the training, Peddy advised teachers to remember the requirements of the new law, according to the audio. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” she said, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives,” which prompted a teacher to ask how one could oppose the Holocaust.
Given that this is Texas, one distinct possibility is that Gina Peddy has no idea what the holocaust was. Teaching accurate history–okay, history–is evidently not a priority for Texas school systems. After all, this is a state that celebrates a fictitious version of the Alamo, a state that passed a law banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, despite the fact that it wasn’t being taught and despite considerable evidence that the legislators and governors involved in the frenzy couldn’t have defined it if their lives depended on it.
If Texas’ governor and legislature weren’t so determined to make themselves ridiculous–not to mention dangerous– it would be unfair to pick on the state. After all, twenty-two states have passed laws prohibiting their public schools from discussing “uncomfortable” elements of the nation’s historical bigotries.
The directive to “teach the other side” joins the equally asinine efforts to “teach the controversy” over evolution. Religious zealots who denied science created the “controversy” and then used it to justify bringing religious dogma into science classrooms. People desperate to protect their children from the less glorious aspects of American history seized on a theory being pursued by a subset of legal scholars–creating the “controversy”– and are using it as blunt instrument to defend the indefensible.
In fact, Texas’ current embarrassment is just the latest iteration of the persistent American divide between people who want the public schools to educate and those who want them to indoctrinate–between those who want to limit the nation’s schools to the inculcation of skills needed to participate in the economy, and those who want educators to encourage intellectual curiosity and growth.
The order to “balance” condemnation of the holocaust with–what? Mien Kampf?–was entirely foreseeable. After all, the attacks on school boards (in all fairness, not just in Texas but around the country) have come almost exclusively from parents and others demanding that history be whitewashed (pun intended), turned into soothing stories that allow Americans to brag about “exceptionalism” and who believe political rhetoric about the country’s past, unblemished “greatness.”
Unfortunately, their preferred stories aren’t history, and if they are taught in place of history, they’ll ensure that we keep making the mistakes that have kept us from greatness in the past.