COLUMBUS, Ohio – A growing group of Republican lawmakers in Ohio say they are troubled by a new way some schools are teaching history and they want to end it.
This is called Critical Race Theory or CRT for short. It is an academic concept based on the idea that racism is more than an individual prejudice. It is a systemic problem that is ingrained in our legal system, our algorithms and our laws.
Supporters say the CRT teaches how racism has shaped public policy and life in America. Opponents, like the sponsors of Bill 322, call it a dangerous and divisive theory.
âIt’s designed to look at everything from a ‘race first’ lens, which is the very definition of racism,â said Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, in a statement announcing the bill. âCRT claiming to fight racism is laughable. Students should not be asked to âexamine their whitenessâ or âverify their privilegeâ. This anti-American doctrine has no place in Ohio schools.
What is CRT?
KimberlÃ© Crenshaw, a critical race theorist and professor at UCLA and Columbia University, describes CRT as understanding people who are racially prejudiced (even unconscious) cannot create impartial systems and laws.
One example is how banks drew red lines around predominantly black neighborhoods to mark them as high risk for home loans in the 1930s. Or how Amazon and other companies working on recognition software facial expressions in 2019 created software that did not accurately recognize black faces.
âThat’s not to say that every white person is inherently bad or that every person is inherently racist,â said Rep. Erica Crawley, D-Columbus. “This is not the critical theory of race.”
She sees it as a way to spark a conversation in Ohio classrooms about how racism manifests in unexpected places like home loans or algorithms or how kids are disciplined in school.
“We can’t approach it if we don’t even recognize it and discuss how it has manifested itself in our history,” Crawley said. “But I understand they want to be comfortable and not respond to it.”
This is not how Jones and his fellow Republicans see the issue.
“It’s a racist ideology that is being pushed into our schools,” said Center for Christian Virtue director Aaron Baer. âThere is a huge step forward between CRT and respect and celebration of diversity. “
Baer, ââa longtime advocate for school choice, said he had received more phone calls and emails from parents concerned about CRT than any other issue in recent memory.
And it’s not just because former President Donald Trump in September ordered the Office of Management and Budget to cut funding for training federal employees on the CRT, calling it a “propaganda effort.” .
âIf you don’t teach slavery in your American history class, you’re not a good teacher,â Baer said. âBut you are also a bad teacher if you say that the color of a student’s skin means that he is forever oppressive and unrecoverable. It is at the heart of CRT.
What Would Jones’ Bill Do?
It’s a feeling that reverberates across the country. States like Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, and Rhode Island have all introduced bills banning the teaching of CRT in public schools.
Here in Ohio, Jones’ Bill has 26 Republican co-sponsors. And Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland, is working on a similar bill.
If passed, HB 322 would prohibit schools from requiring teachers to use examples of current events or controversial ongoing issues in their classrooms. And schools couldn’t demand lessons about current laws or groups that lobby for and against them.
But the heart of HB 322 centers on how racism would be taught. Teachers could not be required to âassert a belief in the systemic nature of racism, or similar ideas, or in the multiplicity or fluidity of gender identities, or similar ideasâ.
The bill prohibits state school boards, school boards, and school districts from requiring teachers and staff to adopt the following beliefs:
“Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race or gender to oppress members of another race or gender . ” âAn individual must experience discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender. “” Fault, blame or prejudice should be ascribed to a race or sex or to members of that race or sex by reason of their race or sex. “” The advent of slavery in what is now the United States was the very foundation of the United States. That slavery and racism are more than deviations from true American values ââlike “freedom and equality.”
“Republicans are very good at moral outrage and cultural warfare,” said Rep. Jeff Crossman, D-Parma. “They want to find issues that divide people along racial lines in order to distract them from bigger issues.”
The way he interprets Critical Race Theory is a way of understanding the world from someone else’s point of view.
âFor most of our story we’ve been telling one side of the story,â Crossman said. “And now we’ll hear the point of view from the other side.”
Is it really taught in Ohio schools?
It is difficult to answer the question of whether critical race theory is taught to children of Ohio.
Parents have gathered in school board meetings across the state and superintendents have sent letters explaining what is and is not taught in their districts, but Ohio does not maintain a list of schools that teach what material.
The Ohio State Board of Education sets standards such as you should teach Civil War, but it doesn’t dictate what books or materials teachers use.
“We don’t promote any curriculum,” Ohio Superintendent Paolo DeMaria told a House committee in February when asked about the CRT and Project 1619 produced by The New York Times. âWe respect the fact that, in the end, it is the professional judgment of educators that matters most. “
He said the state council was “not promoting any program.”
This is not enough for people like Baer who want the board to take a stand against CRT.
âThis is one more reason we’re pushing the backpacks (universal coupons) bill,â Baer said. âI bet school boards will be a lot more responsive if parents say, ‘I don’t like what you’re teaching. I take my children out and take their money with them.
Teaching critical race theory is described as a way to spark a conversation about how racism manifests in unexpected places like home loans or how kids are disciplined in school.