An Alabama House committee on Tuesday approved a bill banning the teaching of “divisive” subjects in historya move that critics say would hamper the teaching of the subject and make it more difficult for students to develop critical thinking.
The House State Government Committee approved HB 312, which had been before the committee twice before, in a voice vote at a meeting that lasted about 45 seconds. The swift approval of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, drew condemnation from Democrats on the committee, who said they planned to propose changes to the legislation.
“This bill will have a lasting impact on many people in the state of Alabama, especially people of color, so we definitely want to make sure this bill gets some more scrutiny, and then we’ll have d ‘other discussions on the floor,’ Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville, said.
The bill had been the subject of a public hearing in February and an in-depth debate last week. The bill was amended at this meeting to remove language that would have placed discussions of slavery on the list of prohibited topics.
“We had a public hearing on this bill that went on for a long time,” said Rep. Mark Pringle, R-Mobile, chairman of the committee. “We had an extended debate on the bill last week. We passed the amendment last week. We allowed anyone who wanted to read the amendment and study it, they did.”
The bill would prohibit teachers from forcing students to “adopt or believe” a list of “divisive concepts,” including:
- “That this state or the United States is inherently racist or sexist;”
- “That an individual, solely because of his race, sex or religion, bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex or religion. “
- “That every individual should be asked to accept, acknowledge, affirm or consent to a sense of guilt, complicity or a need to work harder solely on the basis of their race or gender.”
Instructors at higher education institutions could teach the list of concepts, as long as they present them “objectively and without endorsement”.
Oliver’s legislation does not mention critical race theory, an academic framework used to understand the persistence of racism in American society, which Republicans have used as a target over the past year, suggesting that such teaching or adjacent teaching inculcates guilt in white students. Critical race theory is not taught in Alabama public schools, but the State Board of Education banned it from classrooms nonetheless at a meeting in August.
Alabama’s 1819 constitution, the state’s first, explicitly prohibited the state legislature from abolishing slavery. The state’s 1901 constitution, which remains Alabama’s governing document, was designed to disenfranchise black Alabam and poor white people.
“And what do we want to do?” John Knox, the president of the 1901 constituting convention, declared his election to the convention soon after. “Why is, within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this state.”
Oliver said at a meeting last week that he was trying to limit the teaching of socialism and Marxism in Alabama classrooms. He did not provide examples of what is happening.
The bill would allow school boards and higher education institutions to fire teachers who break the law.
Teachers and officials at a meeting last month said the bill would make educators cautious about what they teach. This, they said, could restrict the teaching of history and discourage critical thinking among students. Democrats on the committee launched pointed attacks on the bill, accusing Oliver and his supporters of trying to prevent proper teaching of black history in public schools. Oliver denied this at last week’s meeting.
Pringle said he would vote for the bill if it were introduced.
“I don’t think you should teach kids because of their skin, their skin color, that they’re necessarily bad or that they can’t be successful just because of their skin color,” he said. -he declares.
Lawrence said he viewed the bill as a violation of the First Amendment and said the bill was vague in its wording.
“We don’t want to leave your individual interpretation of who’s in control, who’s responsible for determining what’s right, what’s legal, what’s not,” he said.
The bill is returned to the House. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or [email protected].