Nine Republican members of the state Assembly want the state to ban use of critical race theory in schools.
A.8253, sponsored by Colin Schmitt, R-New Windsor, would ban use of critical race theory and its concepts in state schools. Joining Schmitt by co-sponsoring the bill are Republicans Michael Fitzpatrick of Smithtown; John Lemondes of Auburn; Joe Angelino of Bnghamton, Ken Blankenush of Carthage, David McDonough of Bellmore, Brian Manktelow of Lyons, Kevin Byrne of Brewster and Jeff Gallahan of Geneva.
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
“Critical race theory is uniquely un-American,” Schmitt said during a news conference introducing the bill. “It is an indoctrination of students that seeks to destroy the core fundamental principle that has been universal for all Americans — the pursuit of the American Dream. CRT sets us back and says that race and the color of our skin is the most important thing and is what defines us and determines our future — nothing could be further from the truth and could not be more un-American. CRT requires students to take part in a course that teaches individuals to discriminate against or receive differential treatment based solely or partially on the individual’s race. CRT attacks all of our society, laws, institutions, and all of American existence — CRT is set up to indoctrinate our young students, no matter who you are, what you look like, what you believe, where you come from, what your parents’ jobs are — in America you can achieve anything you want.”
According to a recent Associated Press report, the architects of critical race theory argue that the United States was founded on the theft of land and labor and that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race. Proponents also believe race is culturally invented, not biological.
Laws banning the use of critical race theory in public schools have been passed in eight states while being discussed in several others, including Pennnsylvania.
Pennsylvania House Bill 1532 would enact the “Teaching Racial and Universal Equality Act” to include in state law that no Pennsylvania school district, public postsecondary institution, or state or local government entity shall teach that any race or sex is superior to another, that any individual based on their race or sex is inherently racist or sexist, or that any individual should receive favorable treatment or be discriminated against based on their race or sex.
The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, and Rep. Barbara Gleim, D-Cumberland. There are 11 Republican co-sponsors.
“The manner in which important concepts such as racial and gender equality are taught in our schools could not be more important in defining the type of society we have,” Diamond and Gleim wrote in their legislative memorandum. “Teaching our children that they are inferior or inherently bad based on immutable characteristics such as race and sex can be extremely damaging to their emotional and mental well-being.”
The National Education Association and the National Council for the Social Studies oppose legislation to limit what ideas can be presented inside a classroom.
“It creates a very chilling atmosphere of distrust, educators not being able to be the professionals they are not only hired to be but are trained to be,” said Lawrence Paska, a former middle school social studies teacher in New York and executive director of the council.