GOP-controlled state legislatures aim to pick up where the now-disbanded 1776 Commission left off. Republican lawmakers in several states are moving forward with legislation that would implement similar efforts.
Bills proposed in Arkansas, Iowa and Mississippi prevent the use of the 1619 project as a part of teaching the legacy of slavery.
The Arkansas legislature is considering two bills that would limit racial justice in the curriculum. House Bill 1231 would prevent schools from using the 1619 Project as a part of the curriculum.
House Bill 1218 goes a step further by preventing lessons that promote the overthrow of the U.S. Government, division between certain groups of people or social justice for certain groups — including race, gender, political affiliation and social class.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has expressed a preference for maintaining local control and wanting parents to have opportunities to challenge curriculum locally.
An Oklahoma bill would target teachers directly for teaching so-called divisive topics, including the U.S. is a racist country at its core. Recently, a Georgia lawmaker launched an inquiry into whether public universities in the state are teaching about white privilege or oppression.
How violations of these proposed bills would be interpreted is unclear. As reported previously by NewsOne, similar to the 1776 Commission, these measures are fueled by a fear of accurate historical accounts.
Failing to teach history and prioritizing the feelings of white conservatives could be seen as a contributing factor to the January 6 attacks and a willingness to believe conspiracy theories and other fabrications.
Educators have also raised concerns about academic freedom and job security for teaching accurate history. Some even see the proposed laws as limiting student opportunities beyond the classroom.
Matthew Boedy, the state conference president of the American Association of University Professors and a University of North Georgia professor, called questions an effort to intimidate professors. In an interview with the Associated Press, Boedy called the request an attack on higher education.
“It perpetrates a pernicious agenda,” Boedy said. “I don’t know why a state representative who won his district by 40 points needs to throw red meat to his base, but this echoes national conservative discourse that has been laughed from the public square by historians and other experts.”
If passed, such laws could interfere with educator’s abilities to join efforts such as the Black Lives Matter at School events taking place this week. Started in 2016, the week of action takes place during the first week of Black History Month. Encouraging lessons and conversations about Black history, anti-racist movements, and intersectional Black identities.
Opposition to teaching curriculum consistent with objectives of racial equity and social justice mimics Jim Crow-era tactics to control information.