Teachers are living in fear as a new state law enables lawmakers to target educators who teach on subjects that don't align with their politics.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of genocide, antisemitism, and race-motivated violence that may distress some readers
A Texas school district is facing a severe backlash an administrator was caught on tape telling teachers to present an opposing view to the holocaust while teaching about the genocide of jews. More than 6 million people were killed under the Nazi regime including disabled and gay men. Holocaust denial is nothing but antisemitic conspiracy and is often cited by far-right groups, who claim the holocaust didn't happen or it was greatly exaggerated. The instruction from the school district administrator has seen a sharp rebuke from all quarters forcing the Texas superintendent to issue an apology on the matter, reported CNN.
The incident happened at Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, when Gina Peddy, the Carroll school district's executive director of curriculum and instruction, spoke about the books teachers can have in classroom libraries. She was guiding teachers on the new law passed in the state aimed at restricting the discussion of race and history in schools. The Texas law HB3979 was proposed and passed by a Republican majority before being signed by Governor Greg Abbott and came into effect on September 1. The motive was to ban critical race theory, which addresses America's history with regards to racism and slavery among other things.
So let me get this straight - the non-existent threat of “critical race theory” has caused Texas to mandate the teaching of Holocaust denial?— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 15, 2021
This seems to be getting A LITTLE out of hand. https://t.co/rNmeKBaUCv
As per the law, a teacher may not be compelled to discuss "a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs" and in cases where a teacher does engage in such a discussion, the teacher is required to "explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective." The ambiguous law enables public and the lawmakers to go after teachers who talk about topics that don't align with their politics.
Texas admin: “Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have 1 that has an opposing, that has other perspectives”— Lindy Li (@lindyli) October 14, 2021
Holy s—. There is NO other perspective. Hitler and vile despicable bigots slaughtered millions of Jews
You CANNOT “both sides” the Holocaust!
Gina Peddy was explaining the law to the teachers after many were confused by the ambiguously worded law. Peddy guided them in a meeting and cited the Holocaust as an example to make her point. She asked teachers to present opposing viewpoints if they're going to assign books about the Holocaust. The teachers were taken aback considering the opposing view was genocide, antisemitism, and Nazism. The teachers voiced their dismay right away, with one person asking, "How do you oppose the holocaust, what?!" Peddy continues saying, "Believe me, that's come up." The audio clip of the conversation was shared online sparking outrage.
NEW: A school administrator in Southlake, Texas, advised teachers last week that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also have a book with an "opposing" perspective.— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 14, 2021
Listen to the audio recording obtained by @NBCNews: https://t.co/vS0IjlROMu pic.twitter.com/yPtM1ncjgV
"It's almost like a joke, what would an opposing view of the Holocaust be?" said a teacher at Carroll Independent School District in Southlake. Lane Ledbetter, superintendent of the Carroll ISD, issued an apology on the matter, reported Slate. Ledbetter said the school district was in no way suggesting "that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.” She added, “We recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust.”
I did not have “Both sides of the Holocaust must be taught” on my 2021 dystopia-exists-in-Texas bingo card.— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) October 15, 2021
Joel Schwitzer, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, Dallas, made it clear that it was antisemitic and further added that the law could be weaponized to instill fear in teachers and stop them from discussing events of history. "It was the antisemitic, systematic murder of 6 million Jews and there is no legitimate 'opposing' perspective to that," said Schwitzer, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, Dallas. "When I listened to the audio, what I heard was an administrator who is desperately trying to figure out how to operate in this environment without clear direction as to what qualifies as a controversial subject. This law will have a chilling effect on schools, administrators and teachers and that's what we are seeing here."
An anonymous teacher from Carroll ISD pointed out what topics were being targeted. "Civil Rights Movement, Holocaust, the Civil War, slavery, women's rights," said the teacher, before adding that teachers' lives were at risk. "Teachers are actively getting threats if they're speaking out at this point, to destroy their lives, to come for their license, to go after their families," said the teacher. "We're beginning to feel like children of divorce like we have these two sides fighting and we're becoming collateral damage."
Anti-Defamation League vice president Oren Segal also spoke out on the controversy. "The idea that opposing views of the Holocaust would in some way sound legitimate to anybody is a sign of the time perhaps," said Oren Segal said. "It's antisemitism, it's Holocaust denial, and it's the thing that animates extremists. There are no two sides to this issue, there are no two sides to the Holocaust."