To the editor:

Nearly a century ago, in Tennessee, teachers were prohibited from teaching about the theory of evolution because it denied the origins of mankind as set forth in the Bible. This famously led to the Scopes Trial, which was later dramatized in the play, Inherit the Wind. While it is hard to believe that in 2021, legislators would continue efforts to restrict our intellectual freedoms; this is exactly what we are facing in Ohio with the prospect of House Bill 322 (HB 322).

HB 322 is being sold by its proponents as a law designed to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Ohio’s public schools. The basic tenet of CRT is that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in our laws and other modern institutions, and that the legacies of slavery and segregation still create an uneven playing field for minorities. Thus, the theory suggests that racism is not simply a matter of individual bigotry but is also a systemic problem.

Despite its billing, the words “critical race theory” appear nowhere in HB 322’s actual text. Instead, the language of the bill prohibits public entities from requiring discussions of current events. The bill further prohibits the teaching of a list of topics dealing with race, sex, slavery, and bias. It also targets history and civics courses, discouraging the discussion of current events, controversial issues, or activities that involve social or policy advocacy. Moreover, the legislation specifies that teachers cannot be required to teach anything that goes against their sincerely held religious or philosophical convictions.

Even if we ignore the actual text of the bill and accept its anti-CRT advertised purpose, HB 322 still seeks to remedy a non-existent problem. This is because CRT is not found in K-12 curriculums. Instead, it is a theory that may be touched upon in higher education studies. Furthermore, even if age-appropriate discussions of CRT were held in K-12 classrooms, why we would want to discourage our children from becoming critical thinkers when it comes to issues of race and law?

HB 322 is far more detrimental to our children and our public education system than even Tennessee’s archaic ban on the teaching of evolution. I encourage you to join me in contacting our state representative and let him know that we oppose HB 322.

Finally, I recommend that you also keep an eye on another problematic proposed Ohio law, House Bill 327. This recently introduced bill seeks to prohibit public schools and universities from offering classes on “divisive concepts”. It further seeks to punish such institutions that violate this law, by withholding public funds from them.

Rusty Rittenhouse

Athens, Ohio

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