Oklahoma BANS Critical Race Theory from schools and threatens to revoke licenses of teachers who promote it a week after head of national teachers union said they will sue states over crackdown on lessons
Public school teachers in Oklahoma could have their teaching licenses suspended for teaching certain concepts about race and racism under new rules approved Monday by the State Board of Education.
With just one opposing vote, the board approved emergency rules to comply with a bill approved by the Republican-led Legislature this year that purports to ban so-called ‘Critical Race Theory.’
The new law prohibits public school teachers of grades K-12 from teaching eight different concepts about race, including that an individual, by virtue of his or race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
It also prohibits teaching that any individual should feel discomfort or guilt on account of his or her race or sex.
The Republican authors of the bill said it targeted Critical Race Theory, which is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism, although there is no mention in the bill of Critical Race Theory, which is not typically taught in K-12 schools.
Democrats in the Legislature who opposed the bill argued it was a waste of time and addressed a non-existent problem.
Carlisha Bradley, the only black member of the board, voted against adopting the rules, saying she believes the new law and the rules are doing a disservice to students and teachers.
‘With these rules, we are robbing students of having a high-quality education,’ she said.
Several current and former teachers addressed the board and said they support the new rules.
The new rules authorize parents of students to inspect curriculum, instructional materials, class assignments and lesson plans to ensure compliance and set up a method for individuals to file complaints.
Public schools are required to investigate complaints, and a teacher’s license can be suspended if they are found to have violated any provision of the rule.
Last week, the president of America’s second-largest teacher’s union denied that Critical Race Theory was being taught in public schools.
Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, said she was preparing a legal defense fund for teachers accused of teaching the controversial practice.
In her remarks to the 1.7 million members of the AFT last Tuesday, Weingarten vowed legal action to protect any member who ‘gets in trouble for teaching honest history,’ as more than 20 states consider bills banning the theory, which claims racism is systemic and ingrained in American society.
She said it is not being taught in elementary, middle and high schools, and is only taught at college or graduate studies, ‘but culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as [critical race theory] to try to make it toxic,’ she said, according to the Washington Post.
‘They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history,’ she said, noting that the union is preparing litigation and has a legal defense fund ‘ready to go.’
The fund includes $2.5 million to represent teachers accused of teaching the controversial lesson plan, and the union is also considering filing lawsuits against states that have passed legislation limiting how racism could be taught.
At least six states have passed new laws limiting how race can be taught in the classroom, and similar proposals are being considered in at least a dozen others.
Many of the bills are intended to bar the teaching of critical race theory – an academic framework that examines history through the lens of racism. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law forbidding schools from teaching that people ‘should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress’ because of their race or sex.
It adds that slavery and racism can only be taught as a deviation from the nation’s ‘authentic founding principles’ of liberty and equality.
Bills in some other states threaten to fine individual teachers who violate the rules or reduce state funding to their schools.
‘Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history,’ Weingarten said in her remarks for a virtual address to union members on Tuesday.
‘Teaching the truth is not radical or wrong. Distorting history and threatening educators for teaching the truth is what is truly radical and wrong.’
In an interview with the Associated Press, Weingarten said the union is adding $2.5 million to an existing legal defense fund in anticipation of local fights over the teaching of race. The funding will be used to defend teachers who are disciplined for teaching about slavery and racism, Weingarten said.
The union is also considering filing lawsuits to get clarification about new state laws limiting how racism can be discussed in schools, she said.
‘We’re looking at these laws to see if courts will give some clarification in advance,’ Weingarten said. ‘It just looks like it´s an attempt to erase so much of the history of the United States.’
Once an obscure academic idea, critical race theory has become a political rallying cry for Republicans who argue that it sows division and makes children feel guilty for being white.
But Weingarten said the concept has mostly been taught at the college level and is not taught at the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools.
She claimed that conservatives are invoking the theory to bully teachers and prevent any critical discussion of the nation’s history. Some of the state laws are so expansive, she said, that they appear to prevent any accurate lesson on the Civil War, slavery or its abolition.
‘Teaching America’s history requires considering all the facts available to us – including those that are uncomfortable – like the history of enslavement and discrimination toward people of color and people perceived as different,’ she wrote in her comments.
‘Years ago, the country unified against Holocaust deniers. We must unite again to address racism and its long-term effects.’
Her remarks came just two days after she was accused of gaslighting parents by tweeting ‘these bans on teaching history and discussing racism are so dangerous.’
In response, New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz wrote: ‘No one gaslights quite like Randi Weingarten gaslights.’
Others on Twitter also called out her remarks, with user GoPackJo saying, ‘If you need to lie in order to push your agenda, it’s gotta be awful,’ and Daniela Oertli writing that it is ‘Incredibly deceitful to pretend that teaching and discussing racism can only happen in the framework of CRT.’
@LibertyBellaDon, meanwhile, wrote that ‘CRT is neither history nor a “discussion” on racism. It’s a one-sided view that does not allow for a “discussion,”‘ and Marilyn Muller said: ‘Let’s not misappropriate the word history, Randi.’
‘I don’t know one American that’s against ensuring all students know all history facts, but segregating students into one of two categories—oppressed or oppressor— is teaching children to #BeRacist,’ Muller wrote.
And @aphofer asked, ‘So which is it, “we aren’t teaching CRT in schools” or “CRT=History?”
‘Neither is close to the truth,’ he wrote.
Critical race theory: From obscure academic concept to the front lines of America’s ‘culture wars’
Critical race theory (CRT) exploded to prominence in the spring as it started to appear in classrooms from kindergarten to Grade 12, leading to several bans including in Florida and Texas, however it has been taught in higher education for decades.
It is an offshoot of the Marxist ideology Critical Theory, of Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, which argued that there are power structures which ‘enslave’ the minds of the oppressed in society.
CRT teaches that racism is not the result of nature or biology but that it is a social construct, an idea invented to exploit and control minorities.
It argues racism is a structural problem in the United States, particularly towards black people, embedded in its institutions, legal system and even the Constitution.
The theory has sparked a fierce nationwide debate in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the country over the last year and the introduction of the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times in 2019 to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, reframes American history by ‘placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the US narrative’.
The debate surrounding critical race theory regards concerns that some children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Those against critical race theory have argued it reduces people to the categories of ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressed’ based on their skin color.
Supporters, however, say the theory is vital to eliminating racism because it examines the ways in which race influence American politics, culture and the law.