FT. THOMAS, Ky. — A Kentucky lawmaker pre-filed a bill that would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools, which would limit discussion of systemic racism in Kentucky classrooms.
What You Need To Know
- A Northern Kentucky lawmaker introduced a bill to ban Critical Race Theory in Kentucky schools
- Critical Race Theory teaches that U.S. institutions are rooted in White Supremacy
- Republicans argue CRT only serves to divide further
- Proponents say it paints a more accurate picture of American History
A proposal to include Critical Race Theory in the curriculum next school year at Highlands High School in Ft. Thomas was considered, and ultimately rejected by the School-Based Decision Making Council.
Just the idea was enough for concerned constituents to reach out to their state representative, Republican Joe Fischer.
At their request, Fischer pre-filed BR-60, which would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Kentucky schools.
What is critical race theory? Penn State African American Studies Department Head Cynthia Young attempted to sum up what Critical Race Theory is, though she said it is generally used as an umbrella term.
“The idea is that the law structurally creates racial inequalities. One really wants to focus on structure and not individuals, and you know the U.S. is a society whose structures, institutions, are rooted in white supremacy,” Young said.
Fischer, who has not responded to Spectrum News 1’s request for an interview, said in a statement:
“Critical race theory is not based on facts or evidence, but rather serves as a dangerous diversion from education priorities that are actually proven to eliminate disparities… It is a powerful tool for those who seek to divide us into categories and destroy the very institutions that have seen generations of Americans of all races and backgrounds build successful futures.”
Kentucky is the latest to join the list of states where similar bills have been introduced.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about the bill. He said he doesn't have an opinion on the matter, but did criticize race-related pieces like the New York Times' 1619 Project.
“I am concerned about efforts to kind of downplay significant items in American history that have been extremely important, and bringing more balance is not necessarily a bad idea. I don’t think the government ought to be able to dictate and affect what’s taught. But I think criticizing such things as the 1619 project, which tends to put that date as something uniquely American. There was a lot of slavery going on around the world in the early 1600s. We fought the civil war in order to put our original sin behind us. We passed the voting rights act in 1965 in order to further enfranchise minorities in our country. It’s been a long ark for trying to improve race relations in this country. But I think trying to completely denigrate and downgrade American historical moments like 1776, 1787, 1965, critical moments, is a mistake.”
Young said she thinks bills like Fischer’s are problematic.
“I don’t think there’s some coterie of radicals who are running around schools, whether it’s, you know, elementary, middle, high school, talking about critical race theory. They’re threatened by things like changing text books so that you don’t have racist, outdated language around slavery. They’re talking about things that are indisputable, and yet somehow that becomes a kind of huge threat to our cultural heritage or something like that,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of evidence, lots of legal precedent to support some of the tenets of critical race theory. My suspicion would be that this legislator hasn’t read a lot of it.”
Young argues, as fields of knowledge develop, educators’ opinions change as well.
“Physics doesn’t look the same as it did 100 years ago. Similarly, U.S. history doesn’t look the same as it did 50 years ago or 20 years ago,” she said. “Do we really want to educate a generation of children who are learning outdated knowledge that’s not correct?”
According to Fischer’s statement:
The provisions of BR 60 specifically prohibit the promotion of critical race theory concepts, including:
- That one race is inherently superior to the other;
- That an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
- That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
- That an individual’s moral character is determined by his or her race or sex
“There have always been those who seek to divide. Without a doubt, we are an imperfect nation founded by imperfect people, but we have spent much of the past 250 years working to become better. Our history includes dark chapters but offers far more hope than hostility. After all, countless immigrants from around the world have sought us out because this is the land of opportunity,” Fischer said.
Now the Highlands High school families will wait and see, as the fate of Critical Race Theory in Kentucky rests in the hands of the state legislature, as is the case around the country.
JCPS Superintendent Dr. Martin Pollio issued a statement in stark opposition of the bill.
“We have been very transparent over the last three years about our commitment to reduce the achievement gap in JCPS. Part of our commitment includes expanding the curriculum to better represent the student population we serve,” Pollio said. “Commissioner Glass has been outspoken in support of our work and our governing body, the Kentucky Board of Education, approved a resolution last fall stating its commitment to racial equity in Kentucky schools.
“I oppose BR 60, the proposed legislation prefiled today. I have real concerns about any attempt by the legislature to take away local control and potentially disrupt our plans to reduce the achievement gap in JCPS. In JCPS, we believe all of our students deserve to feel a sense of belonging in their school and in the curriculum and research clearly shows that a student’s sense of belonging improves academic outcomes. How can we expect students to succeed if they do not see themselves and their history in the curriculum?”
BR 60 comes just weeks after the Biden administration announced a grant program for history and civics education that prioritizes instruction on “systemic racism” and promotes an ambitious “whole-of-government equity agenda.”
The grant will be administered by the U.S. Department of Education.