In the News
Teach children about racism, not to be racists
By Frank Edelblut
The right to freedom without Discrimination legislation recently passed by the New Hampshire Senate is an important, and needed, contribution to our education system. It helps ensure that our students learn about the evils of racism without teaching them to be racists.
This legislation lays out some important instructional boundaries that, with increasing frequency, have been crossed. These guardrails will help instill confidence in parents that our basic values are not being compromised. It will also help educators who increasingly find themselves in uncomfortable training and teaching circumstances that are contrary to their instructional mission.
The Legislation states that no pupil shall be taught:
That one’s immutable characteristics (defined as age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion or national origin) are inherently superior to immutable characteristics of another;
That an individual, by virtue of his or her immutable characteristics, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her immutable characteristics; or
That people of one immutable characteristic cannot and should not attempt to treat others without regard to these immutable characteristics.
One would think that these are common sense concepts that we can all agree on. After all, who wants to teach children that, for example, one race is superior to another?
However, for those who promote Critical Race Theory or similar concepts, their thinking is not built on a foundation of common sense, but on ideology diametrically opposed to the truths found in our Declaration of Independence, that we are all created equal.
In Ibram Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” — a prominent text in support of Critical Race Theory — he states, “[t]he only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination … The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” This idea is, of course, in complete opposition to the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As Justice John Marshall Harlan stated in his dissension to Plessy v. Ferguson, “[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”
And the concepts of Critical Race Theory actually contradict the very premises of the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King himself.
One New Hampshire high school offers an enrichment class entitled, “Exploring Whiteness and becoming an Antiracist Activist.” In this course, a “Race Literacy Quiz” identifies the Declaration of Independence as the idea tied most directly to the rise of White supremacy.
This notion is completely contradictory to the very words of Dr. King. Speaking at the centennial celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King described the Declaration of Independence as follows, “If our nation had done nothing more in its whole history than to create just two documents, its contribution to civilization would be imperishable. The first of these documents is the Declaration of Independence.”
Those opposing Right to Freedom From Discrimination legislation assert that supporters do not want to teach children the complete history of the United States. They assert that there is an attempt to limit speech and academic freedom. They assert that legislation will limit diversity and inclusivity.
Of course, it is Critical Race Theory that would distort our history, limit our speech through its cancel culture and divide us up by immutable characteristics, ignoring the inherent humanity of each individual.
In fact, Right to Freedom From Discrimination legislation can help ensure that students get the whole history, and not a limited or biased view of that history. We should ensure that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects all students from being treated differently based on their race, color or national origin, is being followed.
All of us should continue to believe in the dream Dr. King gave us, that children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Our education system aspires to teach students about socialism, not to be socialists and about communism, not to be communists. Supporters of Right to Freedom From Discrimination legislation want to make sure that children are taught about racism, but not to be racists, as Kendi seems to advocate.
The guardrails outlined in the legislation recently passed by the New Hampshire Senate help us do just that.
Frank Edelblut is commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education. He lives in Wilton.