Idaho legislature passes bill banning critical race theory in classrooms

Lawmakers there find critical race theory to be "contrary to the unity of the nation and the well-being" of the state.

The Idaho legislature has passed a bill that bans the teaching of critical race theory in public and charter schools and universities in the state. 

The measure passed the Idaho Senate 27 to 8. 

Republican Sen. Carl Crabtree of Grangeville sponsored House Bill 377 bill in the Senate, which bans the teaching of critical race theory, calling it “a preventive measure.”

House Bill 377 prevents educators in the state from “making students affirm, adopt, or adhere to” belief systems claiming individuals of any race, sex, ethnicity, religion, or national origin are responsible for past actions done by members of the same group. It also prohibits teachers from teaching that any race is inferior or superior to another. 

“This bill does not intend to prohibit discussion in an open and free way,” said Republican Sen. Carl Crabtree of Grangeville, who chairs the education committee and sponsored the bill in the Senate. “It is a preventive measure. It does not indicate that we’ve got some rampant problem in Idaho, but we don’t want to get one.”

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GOP lawmakers in Idaho have said they find critical race theory “contrary to the unity of the nation and the well-being” of the state. Local media reports indicate that when asked about the specific proof of critical race theory being taught in Idaho schools, Crabtree said he could not provide it.

The issue reportedly caused several education budget bills to be held up in the legislature.

“We are now facing an extraordinary and rapidly evolving federal takeover of curriculum in our local public schools,” said Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, one of the bill’s sponsors.

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According to the Associated Press, Democratic Rep. Colin Nash said minority constituents in his district had told him they didn’t like the measure.

“This is a bill they feel suppresses speech that is meant to acknowledge historical wrongs that have taken place,” he said. “I don’t feel that this is going to protect people that have been historically discriminated against or marginalized.”

Critical race theory is an academic movement that seeks to critically examine how the law intersects with issues of race and racial justice. It maintains that systemic racism affects almost every area of American life. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of The 1619 Project, is a proponent of critical race theory. 

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Former President Donald Trump supported a right-wing alternative to The 1619 Project toward the end of his term called The 1776 Project that uplifted America’s history as one of entrepreneurship and independence. Written by conservative historians and professors — including several African Americans — and published to the White House website, it was removed within minutes of the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

According to Education Week, other states — including Hannah-Jones’ native state of Iowa, as well as Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia — have drafted bills that would ban the teaching of what they deem “divisive” or “racist and sexist” concepts.

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