The Tennessee General Assembly passed a law on Wednesday to ban critical race theory from being taught in public schools.
The law forbids state schools from teaching that the U.S. is a fundamentally racist nation, that a person is inherently privileged or oppressed because of their race, or that an entire race bears responsibility for past actions against people of another race. Critical race theory asserts, among other things, that U.S. institutions are racist by definition. The prohibition would be enforced by withholding funding from schools that engage in critical race theory indoctrination.
“Critical Race Theory teaches that American democracy is a lie. It teaches that the rule of law does not exist & is instead a series of power struggles among racial groups,” State Senator Brian Kelsey, a Republican, wrote on Twitter following the vote. “It is harmful to our students & is antithetical to everything we stand for as Americans & as Tennesseans.”
Governor Bill Lee’s office told Fox13 that he intends to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
While it is unclear if critical race theory is taught in Tennessee schools, Kelsey cited the New York Times‘s “1619 Project” as an example of curricula guided by critical race theory. The lead 1619 project essay falsely asserted that the American revolution was driven by a desire to preserve slavery and the project was used to develop a curriculum that has been adopted by a number of school districts.
State Senator Brenda Gilmore, a Democrat, objected to the passage of the legislation.
“Contrary to what some people may think, being an African American, I do not cast blame, but I think we do have to admit that slavery did occur,” Gilmore said. “We have to acknowledge the wrongs of our society even when it’s a difficult conversation to have. And as a result of slavery, in 2021, racism still does exist.”
Similar legislation is pending in several states, including Texas, while Idaho governor Brad Little signed a law last week prohibiting critical race theory instruction in schools.
“The claim that there is widespread, systemic indoctrination occurring in Idaho classrooms is a serious allegation,” Little said after signing the bill. “Most worryingly, it undermines popular support for public education in Idaho.”