Opinion: A Georgia bill would restrict classroom conversations about race and racism.
State Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville, defended the necessity for a parental bill of rights during a House Education Committee meeting, admitting that much of what his bill covers is currently legal for Georgia parents. “If I walked over to Whitewater High School today and requested to see the book that was being used in my kids’ history lessons, they’d supply it no issue,” Bonner said, adding that he knew all of the teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members in Fayette County.
“If you were John Q Parent and not a State Representative and you didn’t know that administrator, that teacher, that school board, this would allow those sorts of requests to be made for that discussion to be open,” House Education Chair Matt Dubnik interrupted from the dais.
I have a simpler answer for Bonner and Dubnik than befriending the principle or adopting an unneeded parents’ bill of rights in order to understand what their children are reading in class: just ask their children.
Bonner claims that his law consolidates parental rights in a single location and that it should not become a “scavenger hunt.” His other option is to make it into a witch hunt.
“At its heart, this is an attack on teachers and administrators,” said Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators and a DeKalb kindergarten teacher. “This law indicates that we do not trust the specialists in this subject.”
The bill of rights for parents is part of a legislative package aimed to bolster Gov. Brian Kemp’s conservative credentials. The most contentious provision in the package is a prohibition on the teaching of “divisive notions,” which some white parents see as a surrogate for critical race theory and talks about race and racism in America.
The controversial notion restrictions ensures a definite outcome: Teachers and principals will avoid race and racism because they are terrified by the 2022 version of the White Citizens’ Councils. In the 1950s and 1960s, these councils and their anti-integration initiatives would follow “subversives” inside their communities.
State Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, stated that after hours of deliberation, even the attorneys on the House Education Committee were perplexed by the bill, and yet instructors would be expected to understand it.
“I am really afraid that this would freeze teachers and prevent them from having meaningful and honest debates in the classroom,” she added.
While the supporters stress that they worked carefully on the phrasing so that instructors have nothing to worry about, legislation with comparable language has already been implemented in certain places, resulting in significant censorship and complaints.
In Alabama, parents complained about schools hosting Black History Month events. A Tennessee parent organisation complained that having to read about Ruby Bridges, who integrated a white school in New Orleans in 1960, made white pupils uncomfortable. The image of her coming at school as a 6-year-old, escorted by U.S. marshals, is burnt into the collective consciousness of the country.
For fear of violating the state’s new law, a central Florida school district cancelled a session for history teachers on the American civil rights struggle offered by a local college professor. In the interest of staying “neutral,” Utah’s second-largest school district prohibited the display of Black Lives Matter banners. Teachers in an Oklahoma school district were told to avoid using the words “diversity” and “white privilege.”
Georgia House Bill 1084 bans teaching youngsters that they should feel guilty for things like slavery just because they are white. During a recent meeting, the bill’s proponent, state Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville, detailed his own second-grade son’s distress over learning about Rosa Parks. Wade stated that his tearful daughter inquired, “Why do white people do that?” “Daddy, why do people dislike one other?”
That sense of grief, he says, is good since it stems from his daughter’s “natural empathy” for previous tragedies.
What about the teary-eyed Black youngster who complains about being followed by store workers who treat him as though he’s a possible shoplifter? What about the Korean American second grader who inquires of her instructor as to why someone yelled at her and her grandma, “You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China?”
When pressed on the purpose of his law, Wade stated that it would assist Georgia in “moving past the past without forgetting the past.”
But, contrary to what Wade and his colleagues claim, racism is not an artefact. His law may allow his own daughter and other youngsters to lament historical bigotry hurled at Rosa Parks, but it would limit opportunities for pupils of colour to discuss the suffering they witness now.
Wade consistently said that his bill “focuses on the kid.” The issue is, whose child is this?