PHOENIX (AP) — The Republican-controlled House of Representatives in Arizona voted Thursday to place limits on teaching about race and gender in schools, part of the GOP’s nationwide campaign to block the teaching about diversity which they called “critical race theory”.
The move is the latest front in the ever-evolving debate about how to teach US history and address racism in the nation’s past and present.
The measure would ban instructions that “promote or advocate any form of blame or judgment based on race, ethnicity or gender.” It aims to ban a list of concepts, including that a person should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race, ethnicity or their sex.
House Republicans voted along party lines to send the measure to the Senate. Democrats said the measure would chill discussions on history and the contemporary event s in the classroom because teachers will fear losing their jobs if they bring up the subject of race.
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“To love America is to know all about its history, good and bad,” said Rep. Sarah Liguori, a Democrat from Phoenix. “And if we feel our history and ignore today’s challenges, we will never live up to the ideals of freedom and justice for all.”
Critical race theory was until recently an obscure field of study, largely in law schools, about systemic racism. Republicans weaponized the term ahead of the midterm elections into a catch-all for teachings about race, diversity, prejudice and privilege that they say are not the purview of public schools.
Lessons related to race and diversity grew alongside a broader recognition that racial injustice did not end in America with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These efforts drew a backlash, especially among Republican voters.
“Ignoring parents’ concerns about what our children are learning is not going to work,” said Rep. Michelle Udall, a Mesa Republican who sponsored the bill.
Republicans included a ban on critical race theory in the state budget last year, but it was among many new policies later rejected by the Arizona Supreme Court. The justices concluded that the Legislative Assembly’s practice of stuffing the budget with unrelated provisions was unconstitutional.
When the measure was considered by the House Education Committee on Wednesday, several GOP lawmakers were dismayed to hear a parent’s description of a bingo game encouraging college students to think about how their race, family support, income and other factors could give them a head start. against peers who experience discrimination, turbulent home life or difficulty getting to school.
“My personal life should not be subject to a game of bingo,” said Rep. Teresa Martinez, a Republican from Casa Grande. “The school has no right to ask you if you have one parent, two parents, a gay parent, a brown parent and are you white.”
Rep. Mitzi Epstein said aspects of history, such as slavery and the Holocaust, are indeed shameful, and she fears legislation will prevent teachers from saying so.
“Teaching these things without blame or judgment would be a mistake,” Epstein said.
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