Ohio is the latest state considering legislation to prohibit public schools from teaching critical race theory, which views racism as systemic in the nation’s institutions and promotes race-based reverse discrimination to achieve equity.
On Tuesday, state representative Don Jones, introduced House Bill 322, which amends the state’s academic standards from kindergarten through 12th grade. Among its provisions, Jones’s bill would prohibit schools from teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior; that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;” or that anyone should feel “discomfort, guilt or anguish” based on their race or sex.
The text of the bill does not mention critical race theory by name, though Jones specifically said in a written statement that that’s exactly what he’s taking aim at with his bill.
“Critical race theory is a dangerous and flat-out wrong theory,” Jones wrote. “It is designed to look at everything from a ‘race first’ lens, which is the very definition of racism. CRT claiming to fight racism is laughable. Students should not be asked to ‘examine their whiteness’ or ‘check their privilege.”
Jones’s bill states that slavery and racism are “deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”
The bill, which already has 27 House cosponsors, would prohibit school administrators from requiring teachers to discuss current events, but if they do, they should “strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives.” It also would prohibit teachers from awarding course credit to students for lobbying for legislation or for public policy advocacy.
The Republican governors of Idaho and Oklahoma have already signed laws that would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in their states. Several other states are crafting their own versions. Jones’s bill uses much of the same language a bill nearing the finish line in Texas.
Proponents of the bills say they are necessary to stop the spread of neo-racism in their schools. Critics say the legislation will have a chilling effect on classroom lessons.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, a UCLA and Columbia University critical race theorist, told The Columbus Dispatch that CRT is the understanding that people who have racial biases – even unconscious biases – can’t create unbiased systems and laws.
State representative Erica Crawley, a Democrat from Columbus, told the paper that CRT doesn’t teach that “every white person is inherently bad.” Rather, she said, it teaches that racism can show up in unexpected places, like home loans, algorithms, and school discipline.
“We cannot address it if we don’t even identify it and discuss how it has show up in our history,” Crawley told the paper. “But I get that they want to be comfortable and not address it.”
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