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Senate bill would ban teaching critical race theory

teacher kneeling at desk, showing students papers
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A Republican-controlled Michigan Senate committee adopted a bill Tuesday that seeks to restrict what schools teach about history and racism.

The bill was sent to the Senate floor on a party-line vote by the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee. It says schools cannot teach curricula that say the U.S. is fundamentally racist, that a person’s character is determined by race, or that anyone is automatically oppressed or oppressive by virtue of race. It also forbids use of The New York Times' 1619 Project in schools. It’s a project that details the consequences of slavery in America and the contributions of Black Americans.

Critical race theory threatens Michigan’s K-12 students with a dangerous false narrative about our country and its place in the world,” said Republican Senator Lana Theis (R-Brighton), who chairs the education committee and sponsored the bill.

“It is an extreme political agenda that manipulating academia and now targets private businesses, public institutions and, sadly, our K-12 classrooms,” she said.

Schools that violate the standard could lose state funding. Democrats say the bill would promote academic dishonesty and present an incomplete history of the U.S.

“It is appalling that this Legislature is even entertaining this short-sighted, inappropriate, and corrupt bill,” said Democratic Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). “If this legislation gets support and full passage from the Legislature, the ability of Michigan students to pass standardized tests or college entrance exams that touch upon American history or social studies would be in detriment.”

It’s not clear if or when the full Senate will take up the bill.

A veto by Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a near certainty should it reach her desk.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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