Congressional Democrats didn’t mince words when they sent a message this week to their GOP colleagues, Republican heads of state and conservative school board members who are making efforts to clean up the states’ history. United by removing teachings and banning books on divisive topics like race, racism and gender.
“It is our moral imperative to speak the truth about our past to finally come to terms with this nation’s history of racism and white nationalism,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York and former teacher and principal, in a statement announcing legislation to protect and promote the teaching of African American history in K-12 schools.
“The moment we find ourselves in demands of us a clear vision to ensure that not only our children, but people of all ages, have access to resources and education that accurately tell the African American story,” did he declare. “As a black man and educator, I cannot explain clearly enough how important it is to the success of our democracy that we come to a collective understanding and agreement that we must take our commitment to learning from our past.”
The legislation itself has the modest goal of allocating some $10 million a year over five years to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which in turn would use the funds to develop and make available materials. high-quality teaching related to the teaching of African Americans. history, provide professional development for early childhood, elementary, and secondary teachers, establish a teacher scholarship program, and engage with local and state leaders interested in incorporating museum resources into their curriculum.
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But it comes amid a major backlash among critical race theory conservatives – the academic claim that racial inequality exists in every facet of American life, including education, healthcare health, the criminal justice system and more.
As it stands, at least 36 states have introduced bills to restrict how educators can teach about racism, sexism and other divisive topics — at least 14 of them have adopted such measures. And school librarians across the country are being bullied into removing books about Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, former first lady Michelle Obama and others that focus on LGBTQ characters from their library shelves. .
The efforts are almost entirely led by white parents and supported by Republican lawmakers.
In some of the most dramatic examples, proposed legislation in GOP-controlled Florida would prohibit public schools from making people feel comfortable when told about racial discrimination in US history, and in Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has created a whistleblower line for parents to report instances where educators teach “dividing” subjects.
A total of 17.7 million students in public schools – more than a third of all students nationwide – have had their learning restricted by such local and national policies, according to a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Let’s start with a basic fact: you can’t understand American history without knowing African American history,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.
The AFT, along with the National Education Association and dozens of other education and civil rights organizations, support the legislation.
“Some people make it a corner issue — even bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students the exact story,” Weingarten said. “This bill will ensure that every student learns about the history and contributions of African Americans over the years. And every educator should have the training and tools they need to engage and teach African American history.
Bowman’s legislation, which is co-sponsored in the Senate by New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, also comes amid a sudden and alarming increase in bomb threats against historically black colleges and universities. On January 31, six HBCUs received bomb threats, followed on February 1 – the first day of National Black History Month – when 12 more HBCUs received bomb threats.
“Black history in America is inextricably linked to American history,” Booker said in a statement. “This history must be taken into account so that we can honestly reflect on our nation’s past moral wrongs and the long and ongoing quest for justice undertaken by black Americans.”