Should NH repeal the law aimed at banning critical race theory?
Last year, Gov, Sununu signed the state budget into law. The budget package contained an amendment aimed at banning public school lessons related to critical race theory. The ban also applied to state agencies and contractors. Many now feel New Hampshire should repeal this ban, however.
The debate around critical race theory
In recent years, the phrase “critical race theory” has stirred up a firestorm of controversy. “CRT” as it is sometimes known, is an academic approach to studying policy and history through the lens of race and racism. The theory dates back the 1970s in American law schools and was used to explore how race and racism have impacted American law. The term is now applied by conservatives to describe some classroom discussions of racism and white privilege in American society. CRT opponents are particularly concerned about teachings that the United States government was founded on racism and that people may be inherently biased for or against others based on race.
A ban on teaching “divisive concepts”
The final version of the state budget passed in 2021 included an amendment aimed at banning lessons related to critical race theory. For example, the amendment bans any teaching that a person is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, consciously or unconsciously” based on their race, sex, or other characteristics. This ban also applies to workplace instruction by public employers.
The language was borrowed from a previous standalone bill and inserted by Republicans during budget negotiations. That original bill used the phrase “divisive concepts,” so that phrase is sometimes used to refer to this law.
Reversing the ban
This new state law has already hit considerable headwinds. For one, teachers unions and the ACLU have challenged the law in federal court. They argue that the language is ambiguous and that it serves to chill, or gag, classroom discussions about discrimination.
The Legislature also recently considered a slew of bills—including HB 1090, HB 1576, SB 298, and SB 304—that would repeal the divisive concepts ban. These bills never made it out of the Legislature, but citizens can expect similar bills in future legislative sessions.
Those in favor of repealing the ban on divisive concepts say that the law is nothing more than culture war signaling. They argue that rather than eliminating division in the classroom, it stokes suspicion between parents and teachers. The law also makes it harder to have frank discussions about the history of racism in the United States because teachers now must worry about running afoul of the law.
Education, not indoctrination
Others argue that the existing ban does not stop teachers from teaching the difficult parts of American history like segregation and slavery. It merely prevents educators from telling students that certain people are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive simply because of who they are. Students should be free to make up their own minds on such issues.
Voice your opinion
What do you think about the ban on teaching certain concepts? Should it remain in place, or should legislators repeal the ban? Whichever side you fall on, you can contact your legislators and let them know where you stand. Get started by finding out who represents you at citizenscount.org/elected-officials.