'Woke,' 'multiculturalism,' 'equity': Wisconsin GOP proposes banning words from schools

The Wisconsin Assembly passed legislation on a party-line vote Tuesday that would bar public schools from teaching critical race theory, the latest Republican-controlled legislative chamber to take action on a culture war issue that erupted in school board meetings around the country this summer.

The measure mirrors efforts in other states to block teachers from instructing students on concepts of racial injustice or inherent bias.  

But in testimony before a Wisconsin Assembly committee considering the bill in August, one of the measure’s lead authors went farther than in other states, spelling out specific words that would be barred from the classroom. 

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“It has come to our attention, and to some of the people who traveled here to Madison today, that a growing number of school districts are teaching material that attempts to redress the injustice of racism and sexism by employing racism and sexism, as well as promoting psychological distress in students based on these immutable characteristics,” state Rep. Chuck Wichgers (R) said of his bill. “No one should have to undergo the humiliation of being told that they are inferior to someone else. We are all members of the human race.”

Wichgers, who represents Muskego in the legislature, attached an addendum to his legislation that included a list of “terms and concepts” that would violate the bill if it became law.

Among those words: “Woke,” “whiteness,” “White supremacy,” “structural bias,” “structural racism,” “systemic bias” and “systemic racism.” The bill would also bar “abolitionist teaching,” in a state that sent more than 91,000 soldiers to fight with the Union Army in the Civil War. 

The list of barred words or concepts includes “equity,” “inclusivity education,” “multiculturalism” and “patriarchy,” as well as “social justice” and “cultural awareness.”

The measure would apply to both instruction provided to students in the classroom as well as training provided to school employees. 

It would also require school boards to post curricula to its own websites, and to specific school websites if a school has one. School districts that do not comply would lose 10 percent of their share of state funding. Parents or guardians of students in a school that violates the bill by teaching critical race theory or its related concepts would be allowed to sue in state circuit court.

The proposal has virtually no chance of becoming law: It passed the Assembly on a party line vote, and even if it clears the Senate, it would almost certainly be vetoed by Gov. Tony EversTony EversDA: Setting 'inappropriately low' bail for suspect in parade attack 'resulted in a tragedy' Wisconsin Supreme Court hands win to GOP in key ruling on new congressional maps Cities prep security plans for large holiday crowds MORE (D), himself a former superintendent of public instruction.