Republican lawmakers push for bill which is an agent in the fight against “critical race theory”

The Assembly passed two bills that would affect the way civics and race education are taught in Wisconsin.

A bill would require civic education requirements to be taught at all ages and high school students in Wisconsin to receive half a civic education credit before graduating.

The other more high-profile bill would prohibit educators from teaching courses based on racial and gender stereotypes, including “that an individual, because of his race or gender, bears responsibility for acts committed in the world. passed by other individuals of the same race or sex. ”

The latter is a proxy for discussion and fodder for political fervor on Critical Race Theory – a social science theory widely taught to graduate students that explores how existing power structures in American society are maintained. Republican lawmakers across the United States have promoted legislation banning schools from teaching it.

“I don’t want school professionals to make decisions about teaching and learning, I want parents to be in charge of the teaching and learning that their students and children go to,” Representative Donna Rozar, R-Marshfield, said at a press conference. Assembly Committee on Education met on September 22.

The committee voted with the parties to move this bill forward in the assembly, which passed on September 28.

During the hearings, Republicans said legislation on “educating students against racism and anti-sexism” was necessary to prevent “indoctrination” by teachers.

“When common sense is absent from ideologies and teachers indoctrinate and go too far, there has to be – for local school districts, parents and school boards – there has to be a way for them to have recourse. a little more defined who teachers and school districts should not allow their educators to cross the line, ”said Representative Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego.

Democrats backed off.

“It’s a new day,” said Rep. LaKeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee. “It’s a day when diversity, equity and inclusion are part of what we do. We can no longer ignore that there are students who are not homogeneous who look alike and can have thoughts. different in our classrooms. ”

Myers added that the bill was unnecessary at the state level, saying issues with how to teach race in classrooms should be addressed at the local school board level.

“As a legislature, we do not have to infringe on these [disciplinary measures] because they are already there, ”she said during the hearing.

In a session of the Wisconsin assembly on September 28, 2021, Representative LaKeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee, spoke out against a Republican-backed bill that would restrict how issues related to race and gender are taught in schools, arguing that curricula should be a matter of district-level policy. (Credit: Will Kenneally / PBS Wisconsin)

At the same time, the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges held an information hearing on Critical Race Theory and the Teaching of Race in Classrooms, hearing testimony from academics like John Zumbrunnen. , professor of political science at UW-Madison and vice-chancellor for teaching and learning.

Zumbrunnen said looking at and reassessing the way issues are taught in classrooms is nothing to worry about.

“I study and teach about the ancient Greeks,” he said. “Socrates and his cohorts in the 5th century BC.

The Senate committee also heard testimony from a Conservative activist who drew attention for encouraging opposition to the application of critical race theory, sharing his concerns about university professors permeating students to ‘a “radical” ideology.

“About a quarter [of social science professors] identify as a radical or left-wing Marxist activist, ”said Chris Rufo, senior researcher at the conservative Manhattan Institute, citing data from a survey from the book“ The Professors and Their Politics ”.

“Where did this number come from?” Senator Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, posed. “It sounds a lot like one of the former US senators in Wisconsin where they were trying to identify intellectuals, professors and others as on a list – when Joe McCarthy was trying to silence people and make them shut up. to hush up. ”

Regarding how curricula are determined, Zumbrennen said that what is taught in a college classroom goes through a rigorous vetting process and is not the perspective of a single professor.

“When a new course is created, it goes through a rigorous review process at the department, college and university level. The programs are chosen separately in this process, ”he said.

Bills will have to pass the State Senate before going to Gov. Tony Evers’ office. A spokesperson for Evers, who was superintendent of public education before being elected governor, did not say whether he would veto the bills.

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