Hourlong Wisconsin Legislative Debate over "Critical Race Theory" and Teaching HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: curriculum, civics, culture war, teaching history, Legislation, critical race theory
Wisconsin lawmakers, educators and parents spent hours Wednesday debating whether school districts need more rules over what can be taught in classrooms and whether parents should have broad access to teachers' materials.
At the heart of the daylong hearing at the Wisconsin State Capitol was the explosive controversy of critical race theory even though the legislation under debate doesn't mention the concept, which argues racism has permeated American institutions and created disadvantages for people of color.
The bills were introduced earlier this year by Republican lawmakers as part of a national movement among conservatives against teaching children that systemic racism exists, a fight against an ambiguous threat that has educators concerned teachers will be pressured to whitewash history lessons.
"Teachers do not deliberately set out to make students feel bad about themselves. The problem this bill seems to identify, that Wisconsin's teachers intentionally or otherwise want to make students feel bad, is simply not real," said Jeremy Stoddard, a University of Wisconsin-Madison curriculum and instruction professor.
"What I fear is that if it becomes law, it will have a chilling effect inhibiting teachers from teaching a full account of history."
Rep. LaKeshia Myers, a Democrat from Milwaukee and former history teacher, said neither she nor her colleagues have ever told a white student to feel responsible for the actions of their ancestors.
She said the supporters of the bills were mischaracterizing the theory.
"What it does is tell me that yes, I live in the greatest nation in this world — in the United States," Myers said. "It has a very rich and interesting and sometimes harrowing and horrendous history that I have to be able to understand, digest, create my own thought process on, build on, hope to never repeat some of the bad things, build on the good things, and continue on."
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