House OKs anti-criticism race theory bill banning ‘racially divisive’ curriculum

Arizona Republican lawmakers are seeking to ban so-called ‘critical race theory’ education in Arizona schools after the state Supreme Court last year struck down a law banning such education because it was unconstitutionally added to the annual state budget.

Schools could be fined and teachers could lose their certification for teaching that people inherently bear blame or responsibility for something because of their race, ethnicity or gender under a legislation that received preliminary approval Thursday from the Arizona House of Representatives.

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House Bill 2112 prohibits teaching in public schools that “presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender.” Schools would be prohibited from teaching that a person, by virtue of these factors, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, “whether consciously or unconsciously”, or that a person bears responsibility for acts committed by others. other members of his or her racial or ethnic group, or gender. And it would make it illegal for K-12 schools to teach that students should experience “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” because of these things.

The House of Representatives approved Bill 31-28 on a party vote. He now goes to the Senate.

Although the legislation doesn’t use the words, HB2112 is part of the current furore over “critical race theory” in schools, an issue Republicans have addressed across the country. Technically, critical race theory is a field of academic study of how racism has become embedded in various aspects of society, such as how the racist policies of previous generations may affect contemporary trends in race. lodging.

But it has become a broader, catch-all term for various race-related teachings, including teaching about “white privilege” and the “anti-racism” curriculum. Critics argue that white students are taught that they are inherently racist or oppressive, or that they bear collective responsibility for the racist acts of other white people.

Rep. Michelle Udall, a Mesa Republican and sponsor of the bill, said she has received “countless inquiries” from parents about “racially divisive” teachings in their schools.

For example, she said an English teacher at Mesa’s Red Mountain High School last year asked students to search for the terms “intersectionality, anti-racist and restorative justice” and then asked them to write essays on the “privilege” they had. A coach in Glendale’s social studies program sent his colleagues a list of materials to use in class discussions about race, one of which included the following sentence: “Being anti-racist is different for whites than for whites. people of color. They must recognize and understand their privilege. And an Arizona State University teacher-training program used a book with a chapter on “why white parents don’t talk about race.”

“Most parents who contact me report instances where children are categorized and set against each other as oppressors and oppressed – not because of anything the students have done or said, but because of unchanging characteristics on which they have no control,” Udall mentioned. “In some cases, they are told that whiteness is a problem that they must work to overcome. This categorization and search for scapegoats will not resolve racial divides. Instead, it emphasizes race, ethnicity and gender as insurmountable obstacles to peace.

Red Mountain High School administration did not respond to a request for comment from the Arizona Mirror.

Udall, who is running for state superintendent of public instruction, said parents who worry about the curriculum are being unfairly dismissed as racist or told such things aren’t taught in classrooms. of their children. Specific examples are written off as outliers or misunderstandings, said.

“Ignoring parents’ concerns about what their children are learning won’t work,” she said.

If the story is about how we got here, that story should include both our successes and failures, causes and effects, because history is not just behind us. It’s in us. He molded and trained us.

– Representative Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix

Although Udall said the bill won’t have a “chilling effect” on teachers when it comes to teaching US history or race-related subjects, Democratic lawmakers said it would do just that by making teachers reluctant to discuss negative parts of American history like slavery. and segregation.

“Unfortunately, the unspoken result of this bill will likely be to provide a baton to make an open and honest discussion of American history – and the injustice that has been part of it, including the civil rights movement and the legacy of Dr. King that we just celebrated — hard to teach,” said Rep. Judy Schwiebert, Democrat of Phoenix and former educator.

“If the story is about how we got here, that story should include both our successes and our failures, the causes and the effects, because the story is not just behind us. It’s in us. It shaped and formed us.

There are parts of the bill lawmakers from both parties can agree on, said Rep. Mitzi Epstein, a Tempe Democrat. Along with its more controversial provisions, HB2112 prohibits schools from teaching that one race or ethnicity is superior to others, or that a person should be discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, or ethnicity. his gender. And, Epstein said, students should obviously not be taught that they bear responsibility for things in which they have no role.

Epstein said Udall should have worked across the aisle to find common ground.

“If we were to work on this to say, of course, we don’t want our children to feel blamed for past historical brutalities, I think we would agree on that. The sins of the father should not be visited upon the son. Children today are innocent. They shouldn’t feel blamed,” she said. “But that’s not what the bill says. The bill says it just shouldn’t be about blame, it seems.

Epstein wondered how something like slavery could be taught without judgment or blame.

But the bill doesn’t say the program can’t assign blame or pass judgment, only that it can’t do so on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender. It also states that K-12 classroom instruction should not teach that students should feel discomfort or guilt because of their race or ethnicity.

Similar legislation has raised thorny issues in other states. In Tennessee last year, parents used a law with identical language on causing ‘discomfort’ to oppose the books written from the perspective of Mexican Americans and a half-white, half-Thai boy, and a book about Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old black child who entered an elementary school in New Orleans in the 1980s. 1960. A mother opposing teachings about Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders because she felt they conveyed that white people are oppressors and minorities are victims.

Some Democratic lawmakers have said the bill would punish already underpaid and overworked teachers. Democrat Chandler Jennifer Pawlik, a former teacher, said legislation like HB2112 would worsen the state’s teacher shortage by pushing more educators out of the profession — a troubling prospect, given the more than 2,000 classrooms in Arizona without qualified teachers.

“The lack of trust in our professionals will be the breaking point,” Pawlik said.

Under HB2112, teachers who violate the law would be subject to disciplinary action by the State Board of Education, including suspension or revocation of their teaching certificates. School districts and charter schools would face fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. The Attorney General’s office and county prosecutors would be empowered to prosecute alleged violations.

Lawmakers approved a similar law last year as part of the state budget, but the Arizona Supreme Court struck it down, finding that it, along with dozens of other parts of the budget, violated a provision of the state constitution stipulating that bills must encompass an individual subject. In his State of the State Address, Governor Doug Ducey called for a ban on the teaching of critical race theory in Arizona schools.

Sharon D. Cole