By Rep. Rick West
The Legislature this year passed a bill, and the governor signed it into law banning the teaching of curriculum in Oklahoma public schools and higher education institutions that promotes or encourages race and sex discrimination.
While House Bill 1775 doesn’t specifically mention critical race theory, it is this curriculum and anything similar, that is being prohibited in our public-school classrooms.
Many of my constituents, however, have said they don’t fully understand what critical race theory is or why it needs to be banned. I’ll try to help explain it.
Critical race theory is a controversial practice based on Marxist ideology designed to teach children to distrust others based on race. The concepts included teach that most laws and systems in America are historically rooted in the racist oppression of marginalized people groups. Many Oklahomans are concerned it promotes implicit bias and inherent racism because of one’s skin color, while assigning blame and guilt for events in the past to people living in the present.
The new law created by HB 1775 does not stop the teaching of history or anything currently in Oklahoma education standards, including curriculum that shows historical examples of racism or genocide. Teachers still will be able to teach about slavery in America, the Holocaust, the Tulsa Race Riot and other topics. Students also can discuss these events and their true feelings about them.
HB 1775, however, ensures students are not characterized, classified, categorically assigned characteristics, or shamed based solely on their race or sex. It also prohibits state higher education institutions from requiring mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. Voluntary counseling is permitted.
HB 1775 is very clear in what it disallows, and rules recently adopted by the State Board of Education give teachers equally clear guidance.
HB 1775 specifically states that no teacher, administrator or other employee of a school district, charter school or virtual charter school shall require or make part of a course the following concepts:
one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,
an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,
an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex,
members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex,
an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex,
an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,
any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex, or
meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.
Even though we are in interim, I still have a fulltime legislative assistant available to help with any issues that arise. If I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.