Analysis News

Tennessee becomes the latest state to censor teachers on race

Tennessee is the latest state to ban teaching critical race theory in public schools. The Republican-controlled legislature passed the bill and Governor Bill Lee signed it into law.

The Tennessee law effectively censors public school teachers who would like to facilitate a discussion on race – particularly white privilege and patriarchy. A teacher who violates the law risks losing funding for their school.

According to the Associated Press:

The legislation, which was amended several times in the final days of the legislative session, takes effect July 1. Among other things, Tennessee’s teachers can’t instruct that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”

“Impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history” is still permitted under the law, and limits on teacher speech won’t apply when a teacher is responding to a student’s question or referring to a historic figure or group.

However, the penalty for a transgression is steep: The state education commissioner could withhold funds from any school found to be in violation.

NPR reports that similar laws are now on the books in Idaho and Oklahoma, “and they’re advancing in half a dozen other states.” The laws could greatly limit classroom discussions on racism, civil rights, and how structural racism affects society as teachers fear potential penalties.

Teaching versus indoctrination

According to the AP, Governor Lee argued that students should learn “the exceptionalism of our nation,” not things that “inherently divide.”

Teachers are supposed to educate, facilitate honest discussions, and encourage critical thinking skills. Teaching “American exceptionalism” is nothing more than indoctrination and jingoism. There is no educational value to it. It is the American equivalent to North Korean or Chinese state-sponsored propaganda.

Politicians should stay out of the classroom and let teachers do their job.

Photo Credit: Jason Mrachina, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0