Texas, Education And The Holocaust

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.

The Guardian, among other news sources, has the story.

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.


  1. There is a LONG History of the nut jobs in Texas influencing education via Textbooks
    Please see the story from the Post
    It says, in part:
    President Trump wants more “patriotic” American history curriculums. He’s not the first to try. Americans have long been anxious over what schools teach, and this has produced fierce ideological battles over what fills textbooks.

    Many Americans believe students directly absorb whatever is written in their textbooks. That makes the stakes over what gets into these books on science, health or history immensely high — an entire generation of Americans stands to be indoctrinated. That perspective, at least, has been the sense of conservative activists in Texas, who for decades have campaigned for more “patriotic” books to ensure the next generation of voters receive, as they see it, the right message.

    Since the late 1960s, these activists have become increasingly adept at shaping the character of school history texts. Because of the size of Texas’ textbook market, their activism influenced what was taught to all American children. For publishers, it was not economically viable to write one book to appease campaigners in Texas and a different version to sell elsewhere. The result: Students across the country got books that told U.S. history from the perspective of a small group of White, God-fearing, conservative Texans. Over 20 years, textbook activists shifted the meaning of “patriotic history” from a postwar liberal consensus to a right-wing, colorblind, heteronormative, nationalist retelling of the American story — one that persists today.

  2. “If we would have just accepted the original whitewashed versions of our history, none of this would have happened. But no, you wanted to know the truth. See what you’ve done! We now have to list all the versions of the truth – the conservative viewpoint and the liberal viewpoint.”

    In a world of complexity, it’s nice to know there are only two sides to history. The white side and the black side of racism, and the non-Jew and Jew side of the Holocaust. Kids need to learn both sides of these events.

    And when it comes to how things work, we apparently have the biblical version and scientific version?

    In comparison, if you have ambitions to work for the government in China, you better test high on your aptitude tests. You can be rich and send your kid to an Ivy League school, but they better test high on their aptitude test because that diploma doesn’t mean anything.

    My 3rd-grade daughter watches high-tech videos on YouTube of these really cool inventions and nearly all of them are filmed by Chinese kids.

    But hey, William Shatner got to see Earth from space thanks to one of our billionaires. Cardi B next?

  3. It is ironic that a hundred years ago, when there was an intense backlash about immigration, the immigrants were the ones who made sure that their kids went to school and did well there. They wanted the next generation to be able to get out of the ghetto. The same thing is happening today in states with large numbers of Asian families – so much so that some prestigious colleges are being sued for taking in “too many” Asian American students, because they have such good test scores.

    Perhaps it is true that nothing changes. Today, it seems that the third and fourth generation people of European ancestry don’t want their kids to learn anything they do not know.

  4. Okay, what texts are going to be used by Texans to present ‘the other side’ of the holocaust?
    And what would that other side look like?
    This is out of control.

  5. Well this Texas Law just follows the spirit of the “Noble Cause” of the the Confederacy.

  6. Americans have always had to dig into their local libraries to find our history. Yes we had U.S. History and World (European)History classes, but we never had anything that was the unvarnished truth. I’m not sure our little children are ready for the unvarnished version, but surely some truth could be taught in high school.

  7. The story of Carroll HS in Southlake TX is sad and disturbing. After a video of a group of students chanting the N-word went viral in 2018…the school board assembled a blue-ribbon committee to figure out a way to address racist behavior in the schools. Then white backlash happened. NBC had a reporter cover the story from start to finish and their version of it is covered in detail in the six-part series called Southlake. You’ll have to use Google to find the opposing/alternate version of it I guess….I didn’t bother. But essentially many entitled white parents in Southlake do not believe that their child-student’s racist behavior, even if it is directed at another student, should have consequences.

    What I found most disturbing is that this cultural/political phenomenon isn’t limited to the tony exurban towns of Dallas, TX. It’s going on all over the country, including ever-so-tony Carmel-Clay School District.


  8. I grew up in Texas public schools. Long before graduation from high school, students were aware of the three seats on the ‘text book selection committee’ appointed by the governor. Texas public schools were such a huge market for text book publishers, whatever these three political appointees exerted influence bordering state sponsored censorship, spilled over to many other states with less influence on publishers. I was fortunate to have ingenious classroom teachers who developed learning experiences that went beyond textbooks to entertain both reality and truth. Darwin’s Theory of evolution was taboo and forbidden to be taught. I can think of many teachers in my upbringing who would jump at the opportunity to exploit the administrative directive now being debated here to develop innovative learning opportunities. Truth, reality and consequences … can be painful and frustrating learning. Far better in the laboratory of the classroom than in real life later on when enlightened folk otherwise did not see it coming. However, I am not sure about the motive behind the administrative direction of one school, but I do know that classroom teachers for the most part are bold and courageous leaders despite occasional bull farts emanating from boneheaded administrators.

  9. “widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs”

    This of course puts mythology invented by anyone at any time for any reason on an even footing with knowledge.

    This of course defines the world before the Era of Enlightenment (Renaissance) known for trying to define their world as humans wished it was instead of defining humans as products of a universal reality. Apparently this change appeals to Republicans. That is their choice but why would anyone defined by knowledge rather than mythology ever vote for people without knowledge to govern?

    Does this officially define the party as a cult?

    Finally they have a platform.

  10. Norris,

    I taught science in Texas public schools for five years. The rural school districts want only white, Christian idealism taught. They reject anything that adds intelligence, proven information and ideas. In fact, the 2014 Texas Republican Party platform specifically called for the elimination of teaching critical thinking skills. I wrote about that in my book, “Killing the Dream…”

    White, Christians in Texas are almost all Republicans and follow the company line like sheep. They insist on remaining hateful, racist, bigoted and backward in every way. BUT, there are 40% of white Christian people there who are stuck behind the manure wagon of Texas Republican politics.

    It’s pathetic. I’ve had kids there tell me how much they enjoyed my classes then said that their ministers told them that all science teachers are the spawns of Satan. It happened more than once in three different districts, both rural and suburban.

    In watching the movie “Hawaii”, I was once again reminded how the Calvinist preacher alienated everything and everyone he touched because of his mindless fervor about the “teachings” in the Bible; all selected for specific and narrow issues, of course.

    There’s nothing like zealotry of the mindless to destroy compelling stories.

  11. One should also be aware tenure for teachers is unavailable in Texas. The teacher who was “reprimanded” could easily be terminated at the end of this school year no matter how long she has taught in the district. This is also a perfect example of why teachers need tenure to protect them from crackpots who impose racist policies.

  12. Vernon, I am one of those who would have manipulated enrollment to be assigned your classroom. I am also one who grew up in West Texas with peers you accurately describe. Despite enlightened teachers, they never changed. Hate is a comfort zone for those who avoid ambiguity of transition to change to be a better person and more responsible critical thinking citizen. Thank you, Vernon, for those five years. ?

  13. Stan,
    Yes. Teachers in the Teacher Retirement System have not received a benefit increase since 1999. Meanwhile the TRS “administrators” pull down six and seven figure salaries. My wife is a labor attorney and she told me that the labor laws there even prevent teachers from suing for cause if they are terminated. Oh, and the terminating agency isn’t required to inform the dismissed employee why they were terminated. It’s a perfect fascist arrangement.


    Thank you for that. And you would have enjoyed the Socratic approach to science that made everyone think. That is what terrifies parents the most. I can’t tell you how glad I am to not be living there anymore. My friends there keep telling me that the political situation is getting WORSE every day in ALL areas, not just schools. Greg Abbott is someone who should never be allowed to govern anything except a turkey farm… where he would be considered one of the inmates.

  14. Texas seems to have forgotten that we went to war against the Nazi’s to liberate Europe. By insisting on teaching the Nazi’s propaganda, they dishonor all those vets who died on D Day and WW II.

    If they insist on teaching what Nazi’s asserted, they should include the fact that Adolph Hitler was savagely beaten by his father as were so many German children. In fact, some of those children witnessed infanticide at the hands of their parents in the late 19th and early 20th century according to an article by a psychohistorian.

    I guess they should also teach Karl Marx’s side as well. They could read that and compare it with Mein Kampf. Oh wait! Is that too much, too soon?

    Oh, let’s show them one of Hitler’s rallies and then show them a Trump rally.

    Too many Christians still blame Jews for the death of Jesus. This is the root of anti-semitism. But ultimately it was the Romans who killed him because he was such a threat to Pax Romana. They often killed Jews who were proclaimed by people as the Messiah. Some biblical scholars believe that Jesus was convicted of sedition because he threw out the money changers in the temple of Jerusalem. 70 years later the Romans destroyed the temple. Everything Jesus taught was counter culture to the oppressive practices of the Roman Empire.

    For me the question is simply when should we start teaching children about the real facts of American history? How do we give them balanced, objective lessons? How do we help them grow out of black and white, all or nothing thinking into an ability to tolerate moral ambiguity and an ability to use objective critical thinking that allows them to resist a dictator or bigotry?

    I guess Texas wants its citizens to be arrested in their moral devlopment. They want their citizens to think like 11 or 12 year old kids on the playground, to stay stuck with black and white thinking.

    Let’s give Texas back to Mexico.

  15. Texas is not the only dilemma for critical thinking learning despite text book bias: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.HIGHLIGHT-arab-israeli-teachers-dilemma-civics-by-the-book-or-talk-about-the-nakba-1.10297915?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=weekend&utm_content=5028538687
    One would think a nation in part founded by the trauma of The Holocaust would empower education to avoid the same dilemma imposed on their ancestors. I lived and worked in Jerusalem to observe first hand the dilemma facing Israeli Arab classroom teachers when authorized text books are written and published to reveal a purposefully biased view of history.

  16. I think you’re too rough on Gina Peddy. I heard the audio talking. She is a low level administrator who was clearly under a lot of pressure from superiors about implementing the law and was simply trying to help the teachers out after one of them had gotten into trouble. She was very distraught about the whole issue. The holocaust example went viral and the invective has turned on her. That invective should instead focus on those who passed the laws and people at the top who implemented it.

  17. Poor little Gina Peddy. The low level administrator didn’t have the courage to stand up against those awful people above her, even if it meant she helped to spread Nazi propaganda. She just doesn’t have the skills necessary to teach the next generation much less lead other teachers. Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers.

  18. Thank you, Theresa. Poor little Gina Peddy issuing instructions to teachers of Texas children; was she perhaps like those “good Germans” and knew nothing of the Holocaust going on around them. Or perhaps, like the Nazi officers; she was just following orders. Or is she distraught because her hateful words went further than the room filled with teachers and beyond the borders of the city and the state of Texas and she is known pretty much around the world by now for the anti-Semitic, White Nationalist she is.

  19. I do remember having an American History textbook in the 5th or 6th grade in Detroit that implied that freed slaves were too stupid to take care of themselves and the “manifest destiny” mean that it was obviously ordained that the First Nations should just get out of the White Man’s way (I prefer the Canadian term – I know too many “Indians” – they are from South Asia).
    Eventually, the NAACP and others got it removed.

    So, the law gives equal time for “widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs”.

    I wonder if they realize that it will put a crimp on their introduction of religion into the classroom, including “Intelligent Design” and other euphemisms for Creationism. I will enjoy the news reports of new books on Atheism being read in the Texas classroom.

    Actually, I will enjoy their explanation of why that issue is “different”.

  20. A friend used to say, “Why, hell, if there’d been a back door on the Alamo, there wouldn’t have been no Texas!” That probably hits the accuracy of the real situation there in San Antonio.

  21. I listened to the entire audio. Gina Peddy was supporting teachers and warning them of the politicized idiocy to come. She is not at all a Holocaust denier, but was warning that already there have been concerns in their district about teaching about the Holocaust. The media has published only snippets of her comments, because those snippets can cause outrage, not rational thought. Fear, anger and hate are what sells in our fragmented society. Anyway, think of this possibility, which is entirely believable in Texas and Indiana and a whole bunch of other places: Imagine a book on how the US denied asylum to the mostly Jewish passengers on the St. Louis, at least 1/3 of whom died in the Holocaust. The anti-Critical Race Theory nut jobs (who are against a concept that is not even taught in any primary or secondary school in this entire country) could perceive this as a criticism of “American Exceptionalism”, where this country can DO NO WRONG. And could thus insist on books to counter this story, or elimination of the book entirely. They’ll insist on revisionist history in the interests of “proving” that this country is infallible. I’ll wager that pretty much anything that might be taught in Texas under this new rule that can remotely upset the right wing ultra white faction will indeed upset the right wing ultra white faction. Gird your loins, folks, we’re in for a battle with the nit-wits.

  22. What is an opposite side to the Holocaust? Gee, your honor, us Nazis couldn’t afford to feed them homeless bums what with a war going on, so we decided euthanasia was a kinder, gentler way to exterminate people who would have starved or been worked to death. We deserve the Nobel Peace Prize surely.

  23. Most Western countries do the same! In Canada we were not taught about our Indians(sorry).I visited many as a Northern Phyisician,andwas disgusted.Wrote an article in the local paper.calling them concentration camps.Had to leave the town due to the abuse by the local Nazis.

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