(The Center Square) – A Hudson Valley lawmaker revealed on Monday he will unveil legislation that would ban a controversial educational concept on racism in America from being taught in New York schools.
Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, R-New Windsor, said that critical race theory (CRT) is an “un-American” concept in that it indoctrinates school-aged children against the American dream.
“CRT fundamentally seeks to destroy our laws, systems, and institutions that have created the America we know, the America where anyone can achieve anything,” Schmitt said. “It rewrites history and provides false history and false narrative on our most impressionable youth.”
Debates about CRT have grown in recent months nationwide as parents and others have raised questions about whether districts are implementing it in their curriculums. That includes The 1619 Project, a 2019 journalism project published by The New York Times that explored the introduction of slavery in the Virginia colony and the consequences of that.
Last November, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create a 1776 Commission in response to “recent attacks on our founding have highlighted America’s history related to race.”
In April, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sent a letter signed by 38 other GOP senators to Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona calling on the Department of Education to reconsider spending tax dollars on promoting concepts that they say divide the country rather than unite it.
“Young Americans deserve a rigorous understanding of civics and American history,” the letter stated. “They need to understand both our successes and our failures. But acknowledging that America’s journey has been a work in progress throughout our history cannot mean ignoring the tremendous strides we have made together.”
Appearing with Schmitt on Monday were a teacher, a local school board member and a parent who said they opposed any proposal designed to teach what they called a divisive platform.
“I believe that racism cannot be overcome with more racism,” said Nicole Hewson, a teacher and parent said in a statement released by Schmitt. “Teaching kids to hate one another, that children are victims or oppressors, is not the way to go about making change. I believe teaching acts of mercy, kindness, compassion, empathy, understanding, will be how we accomplish positive change. Our students deserve better.”
Not all, though, agree on the issue. Some believe that Republicans and other conservative forces are making too much of the issue, perhaps with the goal of stoking their political base.
In addition, there are people who say schools need to educate students that while the institution of slavery has long been abolished and federal civil rights laws have addressed some issues, more still needs to be done.
Rashawn Ray, a Brookings Institute fellow, wrote with Alexandra Gibbons, a research intern, that many Americans have trouble differentiating between their identity from the systems within the society.
For example, if someone criticizes local law enforcement or the school system for producing different results due to policies currently in place, CRT critics are likely to see it as a personal attack.
“There are also people who may recognize America’s racist past but have bought into the false narrative that the U.S. is now an equitable democracy,” they said. “They are simply unwilling to remove the blind spot obscuring the fact that America is still not great for everyone.”
The topic is CRT is even up for debate in New York as well. Buffalo Public Schools has adopted the 1619 Project in its lesson plans for students in grades 7 through 12. That project was one that McConnell and other GOP senators noted in filing a bill last month that would prohibit the use of federal funds from teaching it in schools.
In New York City, the City Council included a $10 million “education equity action plan” that was supported by the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. It will create a Black Studies program for students in grades K-12.
In a July 18 letter to the editor, Council Member Adrienne Adams, D-Queens, said a New York Post editorial sent a “mixed message” for lumping in the City Council initiative while criticizing CRT.
“Our caucus and its partners are committed to upholding the highest educational standards in the development of an inclusive curriculum that serves to both empower and uplift students of all backgrounds, and, in accordance with the state Board of Regents, seek to ensure, “that all groups are included in the telling of the American story,” wrote Adams, a Caucus co-chair.
Schmitt said his bill would be filed this week.