Story at a glance
- Idaho lawmakers passed a bill that would ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
- Critical race theory is used to explore the systemic and institutionalized examples of racism in society.
- The bill is primarily backed by Republican legislators.
A new education bill that cleared the Idaho House of Representatives last week was passed through the Senate on Tuesday, sending it to Gov. Brad Little (R) for ratification.
The bill has prompted national backlash due to its proposed banning of critical race theory — or the study of the intersection of race across various social institutions. The study focuses on the systemic racism typically intertwined with social and legal norms.
Known as House Bill 377 (HB 377), the pending law would prohibit the teaching of any studies related to critical race theory in Idaho public schools. Under the bill, schools would not be allowed to teach “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” The law also prohibits teaching that "individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin."
Proponents of critical race theory say it’s a way to study and acknowledge the legacy of slavery and systemic racism and how those forces continue to shape and take form in today’s society.
“[Critical race theory] recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation,” authors at the American Bar Association (ABA) explain.
Regardless, following a sweeping House victory, HB 377 passed the Senate in a 27-8 vote.
Supporters of the bill say students are being indoctrinated and that teaching critical race theory is a threat to the American way of life, CNN reports.
In response, Idaho students protested in the state Capitol building earlier this week, local outlets report. Many say that critical race theory can help the U.S. improve its racial divisions.
“Many people seem to think that teaching our students about the cruelty and suffering of our country’s past is some form of self-hatred for our own country. But, make no mistake, this is self-awareness,” Yvonne Shen, an eighth grader at North Junior High and a member of the Idaho Asian American Pacific Islander Youth Alliance, told the Idaho Press. “If we aren’t able to recognize our own flaws, we will never be able to progress beyond them.”
The bill is largely backed by GOP legislators, including Reps. Wendy Horman, Julie Yamamoto, Ron Nate, and Lance Clow, among others.
Organizations like the ACLU of Idaho have pushed back on the bill’s ratification, stating that “the bill shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what Critical Race Theory (CRT) is” and that its “vague language...only serves to chill classroom conversations about racism, sexism, and implicit bias.”