Bill Banning Critical Race Theory Fails Introduction in Wyoming House
On the fourth day of the Wyoming House budget session, a bill that would have attempted to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools failed introduction 35-24.
The bill, House Bill 97, sponsored by Representative Chuck Gray, would prohibit teachers or administrators in schools kindergarten through 12th grade from presenting "any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, color or national origin."
Following the introduction, Representative Andy Schwartz said, in opposition to the bill, that due to certain lines in the bill, it would end up sanitizing many aspects of history.
Schwartz refers to a part of the bill that talks about what is allowed in training teachers, and that teachers are allowed "discussion of otherwise controversial aspects of history, only if done so by presenting, from a holistic point of view, a complete, neutral and unbiased perspective of the subject matter or prism."
"If I were a Native American, I doubt I could accept a neutral judgment-free approach about the relocation and decimation of the indigenous population," Schwartz said. "If I were a Black American, I doubt I could accept a neutral, judgment-free approach about the enslavement of millions of Americans. But I am Jewish, and I cannot accept a neutral, judgment-free approach on the murder of six million Jews in World War II. Going to page eight, lines 19 and 20, no one should feel discomfort or distress, but in learning about the Holocaust, I have suffered a lifetime of discomfort and distress. It is essential that students learn about this dark time in our history, they too feel discomfort or distress. I'm not urging a no vote on House Bill 97."
Schwarts was cut off from finishing his statement due to the one-minute time limit when speaking in opposition to bill introductions, and he ended up voting against the bill.
Gray said in response that Schwarts was misrepresenting what was in the bill and that he condemns the Holocaust.
"I think that accusation is not what the bill says and it's disappointing it would be made on this floor. Page four, subparagraph two says 'the discussion of otherwise controversial aspects of history' is allowed, and can be taught from 'a complete and accurate perspective.' Clearly, the Holocaust is something that we totally disapprove of, and condemn totally subjugation, and also subparagraph one. That's sort of an inaccurate representation of the bill, it's disappointing."
Listed in the bill are various topics that those in schools cannot include in their instruction, such as that any sex, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior, that meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race, and that the United States is fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.
Teachers that broke the rules under the bill would be subject to disciplinary action, leading to suspension or dismissal.
A similar bill, Senate File 103, adds a section to Wyoming law on what is required to be taught in public schools in the state and was introduced and referred to the education committee on a 25-5 vote.
Specifically, the bill would clarify that when the original language of the section mentions that schools must "including the study of and devotion to American institution and ideals," those ideals don't include the teaching of critical race theory.
While the bill doesn't explicitly define what critical race theory is, it states that the theory "inflames divisions on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation and the wellbeing of the state of Wyoming and its residents."
Gray said, when introducing the bill, that he wanted to provide a definition of critical race theory.
"I thought I would use a definition of critical race theory here," Gray said. "Critical race theory views all of society through a racialized prism of identity groups, with minorities being oppressed, and caucasian people serving as the oppressor. Where, they use the name of the founder of socialism, separated society into the capitalist bourgeoisie and the oppressed proletariat. Adherence to critical race theory have substituted race for his class and economic distinctions."
While Gray did not say where he got this definition, a similar one appears in the critical race theory section for the website Citizens for Renewing America, a conservative social welfare organization that has a toolkit on their website for "combatting critical race theory in your community."
Critical race theory is a subset of critical theory, which tries to critically examine the world as a whole in order to improve society, while critical race theory adds a racial dimension to that examination, was officially recognized in 1989, and is usually only taught at the college level.
Republicans across the country have talked about the dangers of critical race theory being taught in kindergarten through 12th grade, however, the topics they complain about tend not to be critical race theory, but might use some aspects of it to discuss related issues.