By Brian Freeman
Oklahoma’s Board of Education has voted to forbid public school teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade from talking about eight different concepts concerning race, with those in violation facing the prospect of having their teaching license suspended, the New York Post has reported.
The 5-1 vote came on the heels of a new state law, signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt in May, forbidding the teaching of critical race theory.
Although the law does not mention the words “critical race theory,” Republicans who crafted the legislation said it targeted the concept.
Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.
The bill easily passed both houses of the state legislature, where Republicans hold a supermajority. Democrats opposed the legislation, calling it a waste of time that addressed a non-existent problem.
Carlisha Bradley, the only black member of the education board, was also the only one to oppose the changes, saying the new rules were “robbing students of the opportunity to have a high-quality education, to think critically about the world around us, and to build a more just society.”
But board member Estela Hernandez emphasized that the changes don’t prevent teaching subjects mandated in the state’s official curriculum, telling The Oklahoman that “Just teach history the way that it is outlined there. Those standards are teaching the dark areas of American history, and it should be taught and it will make us uncomfortable.”
Following the vote, Tulsa’s school district, the second-largest in the state, said it would not alter its curriculum due to either the new state law or the new rules.
“We are teaching our children an accurate — and at times painful, difficult, and uncomfortable – history about our shared human experience,” Tulsa Public Schools spokeswoman Emma Garrett-Nelson said in a statement obtained by the Tulsa World. “We cannot and will not teach those histories and experiences that reflect only the dominant white culture, just as we cannot and will not provide an education that deprives children of a true and accurate understanding of the world in which they live.”
Republican lawmakers in Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, and Iowa have all passed and signed bills that prohibit critical race theory from being taught, while 17 other states have introduced legislation that would try to do the same, according to Newsweek.