New Hampshire, the state that so loves freedom that its license plates warn you'll be put to death if you don't live free, took a slightly different approach to its ban on teaching "critical race theory" in the state's schools. Where most states have passed probably unconstitutional stand-alone laws banning CRT, the 1619 Project, or any mention of racism that makes white parents complain on Facebook about tyranny, the Granite State folded into a budget bill a somewhat narrower set of restrictions prohibiting state agencies, including schools, from advancing certain bad ideas. Mind you, teachers could still be dragged before a state board and lose their teaching licenses if they're found guilty of violating the rather vague standards.
In July, the New Hampshire Board of Education issued guidelines on what's not allowed to be taught, with some examples of what would still be allowed, too. That's already ahead of many states' laws, which mostly seem aimed at chilling the teaching of anything about race and history, lest a teacher get fired for saying white people imposed Jim Crow. After all, some white people didn't and that's unfair. There's also nothing about the 1619 Project, and for that matter, no mention of "divisive concepts," which frequently are prohibited in the cookie cutter bills banning what Fox News thinks is CRT.
On the face of it, we certainly wouldn't say schools should be teaching stuff like this:
Schools are prohibited from teaching that one identified group (a group based upon: age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion or national origin) is:
• Inherently superior or inferior to people of another identified group;
• Inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
• Should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment; or
• Should not treat members of other identified groups equally.
In short, do not teach that a person or a group is inherently oppressive, superior, inferior, racist, or sexist. Teach and treat all equally and without discrimination.
Well gosh, who could possibly object? At least in general terms, and there's no way anyone could misapply those standards, unless they were a chapter of Moms for Liberty which decides that Ruby Bridges's book about desegregating New Orleans schools in 1960 has to be removed from schools. You see, Bridges wrote about a "large crowd of angry white people who didn't want Black children in a white school" and that accuses all white people of oppression, according to one of the liberty moms. Especially because it didn't stop to say some white people felt otherwise and everything is fine now, which in fact any good book must do every single time.
Perhaps it could be allowed if it identified the people in the mob only by name, not by race, and didn't generalize so unfairly.
In any case, the latest wrinkle in New Hampshire is that the Board of Education recently set up a website to facilitate parents' understanding of the law, with a link to a convenient complaint form that can be used to report the teaching of potentially illegal stuff. The form, again, seems designed to apply only to the imaginary cases imagined on Twitter, where teachers tell all little white first-graders to feel bad for being oppressors and racists like all white children are.
The first page asks for details on the child and the school (and yes, does specify whether the incident occurred in a public school or on Tucker Carlson's set), The second narrowly focuses on the prohibited categories and who was supposedly singled out for discrimination:
Again, we can't imagine it's going to be used much, at least not until hyperventilating rightwing parents complain that the Ruby Bridges book says that all white people are racist and should be punished, or that How to Be an Anti-Racist accuses all white people of racism, or that Toni Morrison's Beloved doesn't include any nice white people at all. We can't honestly imagine any such claims would hold up to scrutiny, but you know for damned sure they're going to be made.
Not surprisingly, the Hew Hampshire branch of "Moms For Liberty" is already salivating at the prospect of teachers being forced to pay for their thoughtcrimes, and has promised a $500 bounty to the first person whose complaint gets a teacher fired.
Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Hampshire, the state's second-largest teacher's union, has called on Education Commission Frank Edelblut to resign over the creation of the website, saying the convenient reporting forms will stir up a "war against teachers." The New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union in New Hampshire, didn't go quite that far, but did complain that the law is aimed at a nonexistent problem, since no teachers are putting KILL WHITEY! stickers on first-graders' hand-tracing Thanksgiving turkeys.
"It underscores the concern that the law's intent was to chill education about diversity, equity and inclusion and about learning past mistakes so they're not repeated again," said Brian Hawkins, the union's government relations director.
Edelblut defended the website, saying it was only meant as a resource for students and teachers in the "rare instance" when someone really does face discrimination in the classroom, explaining in a statement,
We know that here in New Hampshire, teachers do their best to treat everyone equally, and genuinely strive to communicate with both dignity and respect.
We should perhaps take some comfort from the Education Department's FAQ clarifying that the law doesn't prohibit the teaching of US history, listing all sorts of topics it's OK to teach, and also specifies that it's legal to teach about racism and sexism and discrimination, even if those topics "make students, faculty, or parents uncomfortable." So that's good!
We'll keep an eye on this; it seems to us that no ordinary classroom teaching is likely to run afoul of the very narrow standards in the law. It would be nice to think the law won't be misapplied, wouldn't it?
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