Nearly a Dozen States Want to Ban the Teaching of Critical Race Theory in Schools

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Governors in Idaho and Oklahoma recently signed these bills into law.

Nearly a dozen states are working to ban the teaching of critical race theory, an academic concept more than 40 years old that proponents say critically examines the law as it intersects with issues of race and how racism is embedded in legal systems and policies. The laws introduced would restrict how teachers could discuss racism, sexism and other social issues.

The teaching of the academic theory has long been a hot-button issue, especially the implementation of using it to teach grades K-12. A number of state legislatures are debating bills that would prohibit its use in the classrooms, Education Week reported. Legislation that has already been passed in four states— Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee— seeks to address how teachers discuss slavery in American history and the ongoing effects of racism in the U.S. today, CBS News reported.

Earlier this month, Idaho Governor Brad Little became the first Republican governor to sign into law a bill prohibiting educators from teaching "individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin,” according to CBS.

Rhode Island in March introduced a proposal that would prevent schools from teaching that Rhode Island or the United States “is fundamentally racist or sexist,” CBS reported. 

However, advocates of the concept say it only illustrates how race must be considered when examining history. Jazmyne Owens of public policy think tank New America told CBS News that the legislation “is really aimed at erasing, and whitewashing American history.”

Saying a Texas bill that just passed in the state's House bans any discussion of privilege and white supremacy, Owens noted: "Protecting education means being honest about the parts of our history that hurt, particularly chattel slavery, and being proactive in ensuring that we end current reproductions of racism and inequity in classrooms and beyond."

Critical race theory has previously been criticized by former President Donald Trump, who, while in office, spoke out against the concept and the likes of the 1619 Project, an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that "aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States' national narrative."

Trump called them a "crusade against American history toxic propaganda, ideological poison,” and said it would ultimately destroy the country.

Lawmakers in some states have sought to block the teaching of the 1619 Project as well.

Owens told CBS that the critical race theory debate has been around a formal year and Trump “seems to have made it a part of a political agenda, and now the subject of potential legislation,” 

"The federal government can try and set the tone, but it's going to be up to voters and advocates at the state and local levels to ensure those bills do not pass,” Owens said.

In April, President Joe Biden proposed a grant program that would fund a curriculum that revolves around American history and civics education in order to support the development of culturally responsive teaching and learning that would invoke lessons from the 1619 Project. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell opposed the grant program.

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