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A topic that erupted across the country unexpectedly came to Alabama, where leaders quietly discussed how to approach teaching race and racism in public schools K-12. .
In a working session Thursday, members of the Alabama State Board of Education discussed a potential resolution declaring the “preservation of intellectual freedom” in Alabama public schools and criticized the concept of Critical Race Theory, an academic framework for over 40 years that describes racism as not simply the product of prejudice or individual prejudice, but also as a social construct embedded in American society.
According to Chalkbeat, 21 states this year have considered legislation and policy to restrict discussions of racism and prejudice in the classroom – but Alabama was not yet one of them.
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State Superintendent Eric Mackey said he met with Gov. Kay Ivey, who is running for reelection in 2022, on Wednesday about fears critical race theory will be taught in Alabama schools. Mackey said he heard every member of the board ask him if Alabama should take a stand in the national debate.
“We want to make a clear statement about what we believe,” Mackey told board members. “At the same time, we want to be careful that we don’t end up in a place where we end up in a First Amendment lawsuit if a teacher is having a debate and has two sides of an issue or something like that.”
The first resolution presented to the board was a copy of the Georgia Board of Education anti-CRT resolution, approved last week.
The second draft, which Mackey said he worked with Ivey’s education policy adviser to draft, includes the following statement: “The Alabama State Board of Education believes that the United States of America is not a inherently racist county, and that the state of Alabama is not an inherently racist state.
Another section of the draft resolution states “that no individual, by reason of race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously”.
The resolution would also ban the teaching of “concepts that attribute fault, blame, a tendency to oppress others, or the need to feel guilt or anguish towards people solely because of their race or gender. In public schools.
It was not included in the agenda previously published by the Board nor in the agenda made available during the working session.
It is not known whether the resolution prohibits or otherwise restricts everything teachers currently teach.
Read more: Attorney General Steve Marshall criticizes federal guidelines promoting Project 1619
Board member Tracie West said she heard from constituents in her district, which covers parts of eastern and southern Alabama, who are concerned about the critical race theory taught in the Alabama schools. She and Board member Stephanie Bell said those who contacted her worried about the critical race theory dividing children against each other.
Critical Race Theory is not mentioned as a term in Alabama’s current social studies curriculum, and board members did not describe specific schools or lessons with which they could. challenge, other than a theoretical use of Project 1619 in classrooms. The project was a groundbreaking effort by journalists and historians from The New York Times to describe the impacts of racism and slavery in America since the year African slaves arrived on the continent.
Board member Wayne Reynolds said he viewed the proposed resolutions as a “declaration of equality.”
“I try not to offend anyone, but I don’t agree that [critical race theory] should belong to kindergarten to grade 12 classes, ”West told AL.com.
Board member Tonya Chestnut said she was in favor of a delay in passing the resolution, and Reynolds agreed, saying he wanted the process to be “deliberate” to make sure the board is clear on what it means.
No member of the Board of Directors spoke out against the proposed resolutions.
Mike Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for the child rights practice group at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, said the organization stood with educators who “are committed to their obligation to teach the truth. In Alabama classrooms.
“Today’s announcement by the Alabama State Board of Education is an obvious whistle for a racist movement heavily influenced by highly organized conservative groups to intimidate educators and prevent them from teaching lessons about history of the breed in our country, ”he said.
Alabama educators have participated in discussions about racism and cultural sensitivity over the past year – but quietly.
After the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop in 2020, former State Board of Education member Tommie Stewart asked what the state could do to help teachers dismantle racism and fight against persistent disorders.
“I bet in every school there is someone who could chair a committee for the school and help with sensitivity training and character development,” Stewart told AL.com at the time.
“We are, as educators, another arm, embracing children in the developmental family,” she said.
State representatives, in partnership with the AEA, have developed training sessions for around 700 educators. A new group of programs will be offered this summer, said a State Department official, focused on embracing diversity and improving teachers’ sensitivity to multiple cultures in the classroom.
The new debate over critical race theory comes at a time when state efforts to curtail teaching about racism and prejudice have mushroomed across the country. Some states, such as Arkansas, have sought to ban funds from districts that taught Project 1619. In others, lawmakers and heads of state, including Brian Kemp of Georgia, drafted laws and drafted letters opposing the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
The Florida Board of Education banned the topic Thursday, following a push by Governor Ron DeSantis, who said he was denigrating the Founding Fathers and teaching children to “hate their country.”
With Alabama’s social studies curriculum currently under review, Mackey told board members that about 20 groups have asked to submit their comments on the new social studies standards. Those groups – ranging from representatives of the Creek Nation to the Alabama Historical Commission – submitted 10-minute videos to the committee, he said.
“I want to make it clear,” Mackey told board members, “that none of these are associated with Project 1619 or CRT.”
Board member Stephanie Bell said she wanted the resolution in place before the start of the next school year.
“It would tell locals at the start of the school year that this is something to watch out for,” she said.
Mackey asked board members for their views on a final resolution. The earliest possible vote would take place at the August 12 board meeting.