The Tennessee legislature has voted to ban critical race theory in K-12 public and charter schools in a bill that the state’s Republican governor Bill Lee is expected to sign.
The bill moved quickly once Rep. John Ragan, the bill’s Republican sponsor, got it out of committee and the final step of senate approval came Wednesday night.
Mr. Lee has not vetoed any bill passed by the GOP majority in Nashville and the critical-race-theory ban passed both chambers overwhelmingly anyway.
But with the governor’s likely signature, Tennessee would join Idaho as the second states to move against what conservative lawmakers have labeled left-wing indoctrination classes. A similar bill has passed the Oklahoma legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
Other states are also mulling legislation that bans the ideology that teaches, among much else, that the U.S. is a systemically racist society and that White people are an inherently privileged class.
Mr. Ragan said teachers in Tennessee should improve the state’s lagging performance in education before spending resources on trendy ivory-tower concepts.
“Only 37% of Tennessee’s third-graders read on grade level and only 28% of our eight-graders do so,” he said. “Moreover, over 20% of our high school graduates that enter college must take remedial courses before being able to do college-level work.
“These statistics indicate that far too much K-12 classroom time is wastefully devoted to academically worthless topics,” Mr. Ragan told The Washington Times. “Frankly, until the previous statistics are improved, classroom time devoted to the divisive concepts such as critical race theory should be eliminated.”
Once confined to left-wing academic circles, critical race theory has spread quickly through education and the workplace in the U.S. in the past several years.
Its proponents believe America is fundamentally racist and must be overhauled, a process that starts with defining people by their skin color. White people are inherently oppressors, according to the bedrock tribalism of the theory, which in practice often also divides people by their sex, sexuality, gender identification and other aspects.
Former President Trump had banned workplace training steeped in critical race theory for federal employees last September, a measure President Biden lifted as soon as he took office.
The Biden administration has recently proposed guidelines to funnel Department of Education grant money to proposals that embrace critical race theory or The New York Times attempt to make race the cornerstone of U.S. history through its “1619 Project.”
Several states are considering measures to block the implementation of critical race theory instruction and material, a process that sometimes includes “1619 Project” material that The Times quietly watered down without comment after prominent scholars pointed out its historical inaccuracies.
Critics of legislative moves to halt critical race theory’s advance say bills that ban “divisive” teaching measures are too vague to pass First Amendment muster. The theory’s proponents argue opposition to its notions about Whites is itself racist and will mean children fail to learn about the American experience warts and all.
But the Tennessee bill anticipates such arguments, explicitly stating that “impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history,” and “impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion or geographic region” is fine.