Earlier this week a small group of parents in a Texas school district successfully stopped a renowned children’s author from talking to students. It’s just the latest episode in the panic over critical race theory that has swamped school districts around the state.
On Monday, author Jerry Craft was scheduled to speak at a virtual event with Katy ISD. Craft is the author of several award-winning children’s books including the graphic novel “New Kid,” which won the prestigious Newbery Medal in 2020.
Instead, the event was scrapped, and Craft’s books were removed from libraries throughout the school district. That move was prompted over the outcry of about 400 parents, who claimed that Craft’s books promote “critical race theory.”
Critical race theory was first introduced by several law professors in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It was a scholarly approach examining the impact of race and racism on law and the legal establishment. The phrase, though, has taken hold in Texas and around the country, where several laws have been passed banning educators from teaching “divisive” concepts.
This year, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 3979 to stomp out critical race theory from the classroom. Republican State Rep. Steve Toth authored HB 3979 after he discovered the picture book called “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness” was being recommended to students at an elementary school in Highland Park, a wealthy and predominantly white enclave of Dallas.
HB 3979 restricts what can be taught in social studies curriculum in Texas public schools. The American Federation of Teachers of Texas called HB 3979 de facto censorship. Despite passage of HB 3979, Greg Abbott still included critical race theory as a special agenda item for the first two special sessions of the Texas legislature.
Headlines about the cancellation of Craft’s speaking engagement at Katy ISD attracted national attention. On Twitter, Craft retweeted a photo a Katy ISD parent took of their child reading one of his books with the hashtag “#Letthekidsread.” The National Coalition Against Censorship also noted that four years ago Katy ISD pulled the book “The Hate U Give” from all of its libraries after a parent complained at a school board meeting about the book’s content.
The event in Katy ISD follows the disturbing case of principal Dr. James Whitfield from Colleyville Heritage High School in North Texas. Dr. Whitfield is facing the non-renewal of his contract after complaints from a conservative activist that he was promoting critical race theory.