Last week, the Georgia Board of Education voted to censor American history and limit classroom discussions of race. In an 11-2 vote, the board adopted a resolution asserting that Georgia and the United States itself are not racist, and that classroom discussions on race, systemic racism, inequality, and “controversial” events should be avoided. To ignore such subjects in the classroom is a rejection of the horrific history of slavery and the mistreatment of Black people in the United States, and the country’s roots in white supremacy.
While the resolution did not explicitly use the words critical race theory, it does aim to prevent Georgia schools from instilling the core tenets of it. Governor Brian Kemp came out last month urging the board to take “immediate steps to ensure that critical race theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards and curriculum.” Understanding how racism has played a role in U.S. laws and public policy is an important piece of the puzzle for students to fully understand our country’s history.
“The resolution is fundamentally contradictory. It claims to respect First Amendment rights and strongly encourages educators, who teach about controversial public policy or social affairs issues, to explore them from diverse and contending perspectives. Yet, the resolution clearly would prohibit a teacher or student from talking about systemic racism or inequity in America.” – Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the southern division at the Anti-Defamation League
Language within the resolution included that no administrator, teacher, or school employee should suggest that:
“meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race,” or
“that the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or that, with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”
How history teachers will effectively craft lessons within these parameters on topics such as the effects of Jim Crow, the three-fifths compromise, and the civil rights movement remains to be seen. There are many facets of white supremacist ideology embedded throughout U.S. history, and these aspects need to be recognized in classrooms to provide students with a historically accurate education. While the resolution does not yet have power over what teachers can and cannot say, this is not out of the cards. According to Hillel Levin, a law professor at the University of Georgia, teachers could be disciplined for violating these recommendations if the board writes elements of the resolution into regulation.
The ACLU of Georgia has come out with a statement that this is suppression of history by “extreme elements,” and Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators stated that “it definitely seeks to censor discussing current events.” Unfortunately, Georgia is not the only state attempting to limit how race is discussed in schools, with more than a dozen states passing or considering passing legislation on the topic.
Get to the point: The Georgia Board of Education recently voted to censor American history and limit classroom discussions of race. The resolution suggests that teachers, administrators, and other school employees should avoid discussions on race, systemic racism, inequality, and “controversial” events. Ignoring subjects such as these are a blatant rejection of the horrific history of slavery and the roots of white supremacy in the United States. Unfortunately, Georgia is not the only state implementing a resolution limiting these discussions in schools, with more than a dozen states passing or considering passing legislation on the topic across the country.