Opinion by Antoinette Brasier
Carbondale Middle School
As of 2022, seven U.S. states have banned Critical Race Theory (CRT) from being taught in schools. CRT is an intellectual and social movement by civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race, society and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream approaches to racial justice.
The teachers in the states with a ban on CRT can no longer teach — not even mention — anything more than what the curriculum guides them to. If they are reported to have talked about CRT, their teaching license can be suspended or possibly revoked. In Tennessee, if a teacher violates the policy and speaks of race outside of the curriculum, they can lose their license and the school district can face fines of up to $1 million or 2% of their budget — whichever is less.
This means that students in these seven states receive a watered-down version of U.S. history. Teachers are prompted to skim over slavery and the reasons for the Civil War. Students in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Tennessee are essentially deceived about the history of our country. They’re led to believe that America had some rough patches but resolved the issues, and all is better now.
Sixteen additional states have bills going through their legislatures and could possibly have a ban very soon. If their legislatures decide to pass the bans, there could be some seriously ignorant people in the next generation.
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (1905) This is completely true — there is a major possibility that if the students of this generation don’t learn the realities of American history, then we could repeat horrendous atrocities, resulting in segregation, another civil war and/or unconstitutional laws.
Especially with modern-day technology, there could be a major catastrophe if students go uneducated about American history. Slavery is a very large part of our history and there will definitely be consequences if future generations are ignorant of it.
On September 15, 2020, former President Donald Trump claimed in his National Archives speech that “Teaching even one child these divisive messages would verge on psychological abuse.” He believed that teaching children about the wrongful acts of America’s past would compel students to feel bad about themselves and/or be ashamed of their American citizenship.
Trump also declared that, “Getting Critical Race Theory out of our schools is not just a matter of values, it’s also a matter of national survival. We have no choice, the fate of any nation ultimately depends upon the willingness of its citizens to lay down — and they must do this — they must lay down their very lives to defend their country. If we allow the Marxists and Communists and Socialists to teach our children to hate America, there will be no one left to defend our flag or to protect our great country or its freedom.”
Teaching children CRT would not do any of this. In fact, it would teach students to be open-minded and compassionate. Of course, learning about slavery may rightfully upset them, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t compel them to hate America.
It is incredibly important to protect the rights of teachers to inform their students about our nuanced past. As stated, the effects of students not learning about our country’s racist past could be too tremendous to predict. Schools should educate young scholars to gain the skills and knowledge to live autonomously and successfully.
The truths of U.S. history are taught to students to help them become intelligent, contributing members of society. If students don’t know the details of the American Civil War, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s heartbreaking deaths and the Black Lives Matter movement, then their chances of living educated lives will be compromised.