TEXAS – parents in northern Texas – many of whom are active in efforts to ban books in their local school districts – attended a meeting of the State Board of Education in April to protest the education of the characters.
Character education is not new in Texas school districts. The education code has been amended at least four times to require schools to include general character traits, such as honesty, respect, and diligence in all subjects in the curriculum.
The latest introduction, the 123rd Senate Bill, was passed in the 2021 legislature by Sen. Nathan Johnson and Rep. John Turner, both Dallas Democrats.
“I represent a large group of parents who are very concerned about the bill, SB 123,” Mother Mary Lowe told the board on April 6. “This bill was kept under the radar. It was introduced locally and by consensus, and there was no discussion on the bill.”
The Local and Consensus Calendar is reserved for non-controversial and non-controversial bills. On most days of a legislature, members of parliament can pass a dozen, or even two dozen, bills at a time by voice vote.
Low, disgusted with what he saw teaching during the pandemic, created the Mothers for Liberty chapter in Tarrant County. The private Facebook group, which is less than a year old, has 1,700 members.
Hollie Plemons is the mother of three children in Fort Worth ISD schools. He also asked the SBOE to complain about the policy of incorporating additional character traits into the curriculum.
“I am amazed that I continue to remind my school board and members of parliament that my three children are just that. They are mine, ”Plemons told the committee. “They are not in government. They are mine. I don’t want the government to teach nature to my children. That’s my job, and it’s the job I want to keep. “
Schools should keep an eye on issues like reading and math, Plemons said. “Please stay on your street,” Plemons said. “Engage in academics, and leave parents to parents.”
Parents opposed to the bill are particularly suspicious of the nonprofit CASEL group. Named CASEL, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, it was born out of the 1990s philosophy of “whole child” education. The group trains and secures material under the umbrella known as socio-emotional learning.
That was what SBOE member Pat Hardy, a Weatherford Republican, tried to discuss with the speakers at the meeting. Hardy said — and Lowe agreed — that parental concern was more about specific programs approved by CASEL than the concept of the nature of teaching.
“You know I feel like we can teach good character traits. That, in my opinion, is doable. And somehow it’s the school’s duty, because a lot of kids don’t have a lot of work to do at home, “Hardy told Lower.
“Absolutely,” Low said. “I mean, there are a lot of concerns with the bill. And SB 3 was passed after SB 123 was passed. We are in a crisis where our children are not where they need to be. And we’re adding a separate time for a character-independent curriculum or independent teaching. “
Von Byer, general counsel for the Texas Education Agency, clarified that the education code did not specify how character traits are taught. A school district may choose to offer an autonomous course or use existing books and materials to teach the concepts of character traits.
“We need to develop our children’s schools to compare fairness and justice, to show responsibility and courage in making decisions for the good of the classroom and the community,” Father Richard McKenzie told the committee. “Sorry. When we talk about all these things, it becomes very subjective. The skill you get out of the program makes the program the answer you want.”
SB 3 Lowe was referring to the Senate Bill 3, a bill called Critical Race Theory. Conservative groups believe that SB 3 — which limits personal opinions in the classroom — is also a fairly broad philosophy for incorporating those who view liberal ideas as social-emotional learning.
The parents wanted the SBOE to vote “no” to the implementation of SB 123, but Associate Commissioner Monica Martinez stated that an administrative rule on the bill is in place. And SBOE President Keven Ellis, a Lufkin Republican, said character education is underway. SB 123 added only a couple of terms that would be included in the education code.
Member of Parliament Marisa Perez-Diaz, a Democrat from San Antonio, said she had heard in school districts and businesses that students leaving school lack soft skills. The skills internalized by SB 123 were self-management, interpersonal skills, and responsible decision-making.
“I don’t connect with those personal skills that companies and industries also require when it comes to training our young people to find out what the negative impact is,” Perez-Diaz said. “(Business and industry) because they have taught you technical skills. What they can’t do is teach soft skills that they tell us often in conversation. “
Witness Marcy Galle, a mother from Aledo, said she considered it negative to dictate what business and industry teach in schools. Perez-Diaz objected, saying the business did not promise what was taught in schools; when graduates were hired to do a job they were sharing what gaps they had.
“They’re sharing. They are reflecting on what is missing. And where people can fill in the gaps, ”Perez-Diaz said. “It simply came to our notice then. There is no dictatorship. ”
The SBOE accepted the policy, acknowledging that they had made little contribution to whether or not the policy was implemented. Low said Conservative lawmakers, including Prime Minister Dan Patrick, had stated that they would return and tighten language policy in the 2023 legislature.
Parents in Texas schools are protesting character education
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