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Tennessee GOP advance bill opposed to teaching of critical race theory

Tennessee GOP advance bill opposed to teaching of critical race theory
© Tennessee Legislature

Republican state representatives in Tennessee advanced legislation this week that seeks to bar teachings about critical race theory in schools.

The Tennessee's state House Education Committee approved legislation along party lines to add an amendment to a larger bill that reportedly dealt with multiple rules for the state's education department and had previously passed the state Senate, according to the Nashville Tennessean.

The new amendment being backed by Tennessee Republicans, however, seeks to lay out restrictions on how subjects like race are taught in classrooms.

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Among the concepts the legislation seeks to bar schools from teaching includes the notion that a person can be inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive due their race, as well as the idea that the country is fundamentally racist or sexist, according to the newspaper.

It would also, if passed by the state Legislature, impact how states that teach such concepts receive funding.

The legislation passed the education panel with 12 "yes" votes from Republican legislators and 3 "no" votes from Democratic legislators, all three of whom are Black. 

State Rep. John Ragan (R), who brought forth the measure, used choice words when explaining the rationale behind the bill to his fellow legislators on Monday, describing the effort as a part of “a stand against hucksters, charlatans and useful idiots peddling identity politics.”

“These additional sections may well be more important than all of the others. Today subversive factions are seeking to undermine our unique form of government of the people, by the people and for the people,” he said.

“These seditious charlatans would if they could destroy our heritage of ordered, individual liberty under the rule of law, before our very eyes,” he stated. “Disingenuously, these conniving hucksters masquerade as noble champions of the oppressed, regrettably, they have successfully hoodwinked a number of our fellow citizens into becoming what Lenin called useful idiots.”

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The language is similar to other pieces of legislation that Republican lawmakers in other states have filed or advanced in recent months aiming to block the teaching of critical race theory, which maintains that racism is inherently imbued within the country’s institutions.

Much of the legislation features the same language from the same “divisive concepts” the Trump administration prohibited in its controversial executive order that took aim at certain diversity training for government workers. 

The order prompted legal challenges from civil rights groups immediately after it was signed in September. It was also criticized by federal workers and others who said it amounted to executive overreach. 

While making the case for his proposal on Monday, Ragan cited an email he said he received about a local 7-year-old girl he said told her mother she was “ashamed” to be white.

“Listen to the following quotes from an email forwarded to me concerning a 7-year-old girl in Williamson County,” he said. “After a discussion in public school on principles such as I just described, the little girl told her mother, 'I'm ashamed that I'm white.' The daughter then asked her mother, 'Is there something wrong with me?' ”

" 'She is depressed. She doesn't want to go to school,' her mother says, the mother goes on, 'she is scared to death, and has even had thoughts of killing herself.' Again, we're talking about a 7-year-old child.” 

Ragan went on to state that the email illustrated “eloquently” why he has proposed such a legislation. 

Ragan's proposal now awaits consideration from the lower chamber. Should the measure pass, the state Senate will also need to vote on the proposed changes.