Two bills were introduced in the General Assembly Tuesday to ban critical race theory from being taught in Ohio schools in grades K through 12.
Borne out of the civil rights movement, critical race theory began as a way of examining laws through the lens of race and considering how laws can keep the powerful in power. It’s since spread to other disciplines, exploring how racism has impacted life throughout history and today.
Educators who teach critical race theory are looking at how race relations have shaped the legal, social and political aspects of society.
“It’s a big issue,” Ohio Rep. Don Jones said. “A great concern to a lot of people because of the fact that we are starting at such a young age.”
He said he wants educators to think twice before introducing critical race theory in the classroom.
“We cannot start indoctrinating our young people with the fact we have a better situation or worse situation just because of the color of our skin or the way we were born,” Jones said. “We had no choice whether we were born male or female or Black or white. We are who we are.”
His bill, HB 322, would prohibit school districts or schools from teaching about privilege in race or concepts of inherent racism.
“I’m not against history, but we are trying to teach young people what to think instead of how to think,” Jones said. “Let’s give them the information and the facts and let them make those choices.”
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center historian Chris Miller said critical race theory should be considered from a historical standpoint.
“It’s important because it talks about the truth,” he said. “It looks at examining law and its intersection with race.”
Miller said if the discussion can’t be held in the classroom, he’s thankful for places like the Freedom Center.
“The reality is that racism has been woven into the social fabric of our society and casting a blind eye to it or not acknowledging it will not improve things,” he said. “You have to have these critical conversations about race, have these critical conversations about how law intersects with race. Because this is the root, the origin of the fruit we are dealing with here today.”
Jones’ bill would also ban teaching that the advent of slavery marks the true founding of the United States.
The second bill in the Ohio General Assembly would ban teaching that people can be considered racists because of the color of their skin – or that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist. It’s sponsored by lawmakers from Chesterland and Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Other states looking at similar measures include Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.