N.C. Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of House Bill 324 serves only to create more controversy and confusion for teachers, parents and students regarding the state’s hastily created new and controversial social studies standards. As a result, parents will have to be more engaged and vigilant about what their children are learning in the state’s public schools in grades K-12.
H.B. 324, entitled, “Ensuring Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools” was passed by both chambers on party line votes, with Republicans winning the issue 25-19 in the Senate and 61-41 in the House. The purpose of the bill as the title denotes, is designed to assure parents that children will not experience a curriculum that promotes indoctrination which counterintuitively promotes racial or gender disparities rather than diminishes them.
But because the vote was so close, lacking a veto proof majority, there is little chance for an override of the governor’s decision, thereby keeping the new controversial and confusing curriculum standards in place.
In announcing his veto last Friday, Governor Cooper attempted to demonize the bill stating, “this bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education.” In fact, it is he and his liberal supporters that are pushing a political agenda in the state’s social studies curriculum.
Over the past two years, the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction have been reviewing the state’s social studies curriculum with a varying degree of consensus. The new curriculum was to be concluded by the early part of this year but that schedule was delayed due to the interruption of planning meetings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to this disruption were concerns that educational consultants were including controversial instruction material based on Critical Race Theory (CRT) that does not meet acceptable curriculum standards.
With less than a week before schools were to open statewide, the education board approved the new standards and then hastily introduced “unpacking documents” or guidelines for teachers to use in the development of course outlines.
CRT has as its genesis a legal analysis by a small number of scholars who theorized that racism is not only an issue of individual bias but is endemic in the country’s legal system and policies. At its core, the theory holds that racism is part of everyday life.
In a misplaced attempt to address historical disparities in the country’s history, a curriculum is being created that demonizes certain groups for past grievances and in the process holds the current population accountable. Examples include accusing children, in the form of role playing, that due to racial or gender differences, they either hate or are hated by other disparate groups, and that they are either to blame or are victims of previous inequities and grievances.
Responding to concerns voiced by parents and teachers during state board of education meetings concerning what is best described as “cobbled together” social studies standards, the legislature’s Republican leadership proposed setting guidelines to assuage the fear that the standards would support forms of social indoctrination.
The legislation, crafted over the three months of study and passed with only Republican support in both chambers assures that all public school policies prohibit any instruction that includes:
• One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
• An individual, by virtue of their race, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive
• That discrimination is acceptable based on race, ethnicity or gender
• That meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist
• That character traits such as morals, values, or ethical codes can be ascribed by race or sex
Contrary to Governor Cooper’s arguments and those of liberals, there is no restriction on teachers engaging with their students on social and cultural subjects such as race, religion or gender. Writers Neil Shenvi and Pat Swayer of the Federalist argued that H.B. 324 does not restrain the honest teaching of history as the opponents contend but instead strengthens discussion of the topics in the classroom
The writers point to language in the bill that it cannot be used to prohibit “impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history” or “impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion or geographic region.”
They go on to point out that “there is a difference between teaching historical facts and forcing a particular interpretation of those facts on students.” And it is that difference between teaching and indoctrination that is the focus of H.B. 324.
Governor Cooper and his progressive supporters have chosen to further inculcate politics into education, not remove it. His decision to veto H.B. 324 only serves as a clear warning to parents that they now must remain vigilant as to what their students are learning and further, to participate in local board’s education meetings to assure that indoctrination is not occurring.