Frankly, I can only hope that Gina Peddy, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, was just using a poor example or was confused by the law when she advised teachers a week ago Friday that when they assign their students a book about the Holocaust, they should also offer them a book representing an “opposing” perspective, as reported by NBC News based on a recording of the meeting (Southlake school leader tells teachers to balance Holocaust books with ‘opposing’ views).
From the background reaction in the audience to her comment, it’s clear the teachers understood her to be absolutely serious.
Peddy made her bizarre comment last Friday afternoon in a training session on the books teachers are allowed to keep in their classroom, after the Carroll school board had reprimanded a fourth-grade teacher when a parent complained that she kept a Critical Race Theory book in her classroom.
The book for which the fourth-grade teacher was reprimanded was Tiffany Jewell’s This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work.
Publishers Weekly said about Jewell’s rather progressive Critical Race Theory (CRT) book:
“Using clear, compelling language, Jewell employs four sections to deftly explain progressive understandings of identity, history, action, and solidarity as tools to encourage antiracist reflection, thought, and action. From the author’s note introducing the idea that ‘racism is a problem, a very serious problem,’ to the volume’s explorations of ‘spending that privilege’ and ‘calling out and calling in,’ Jewell offers readers at various points in their activist journeys a necessary primer on antiracist thinking (a glossary helpfully defines underlined terms used throughout, including cisgender, neurodiverse, and femme). Thoughtful, energizing calls to action and journal prompts encourage readers to check in with themselves and to ‘grow from our discomfort.'”
Peddy instructed her teachers: “Just try to remember the concepts of 3979 (Texas House Bill 3979 – DI), and make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” one teacher is heard saying on the recording.
“Believe me,” Peddy answers, “That’s come up.”
Carroll spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said after the Peddy brouhaha had blown up:
“Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements. Our purpose is to support our teachers in ensuring they have all of the professional development, resources, and materials needed. Our district has not and will not mandate books be removed nor will we mandate that classroom libraries be unavailable.”
The Texas House Bill 3979 says:
(1) no teacher shall be compelled by a policy of any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs;
(2) teachers who choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs shall, to the best of their ability, strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.
Presumably the last thing the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas wants to see is the Holocaust-denying parent of some fourth-grader complaining that their teachers never mention the works of Ernst Zündel, David Irving, or any KKK brochure on the subject, because the law demands it.
Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, told NBC News: “We find it reprehensible for an educator to require a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history. That’s absurd. It’s worse than absurd. And this law does not require it.”
Ah, but it does, as an elementary school teacher put it, on condition of remaining anonymous, “Teachers are literally afraid that we’re going to be punished for having books in our classes. There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposing perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposing perspective’ of slavery. Are we supposed to get rid of all of the books on those subjects?”
Lane Ledbetter, Superintendent of Schools, posted a clarification on Facebook with regards to teaching Holocaust denial:
Dear Dragon Families:
As the Superintendent of Schools, I express my sincere apology regarding the online article and news story released today. During the conversations with teachers during last week’s meeting, the comments made were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust. As we continue to work through implementation of HB3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts. As a district we will work to add clarity to our expectations for teachers and once again apologize for any hurt or confusion this has caused.