The Idaho House on Thursday approved a bill that supporters say will limit how teachers can talk about race in the state’s classrooms. It’s a theme that has gained steam in the last few weeks.
Several Idaho legislators have complained the Biden administration’s Department of Education is encouraging schools to teach Critical Race Theory and other social themes they consider discriminatory. Rep. Julianne Young [R-Blackfoot] says the state should limit the teaching of some concepts, among them, that anyone is inferior or superior to anyone else and…
“That individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin," says the bill's language.
Young and others say they’re hearing from parents and students that teachers are, in some cases, introducing concepts they find troubling.
Adherents of this have worked to delay passage of several education budgets until they could get this language inserted into law. Rep. Ryan Kerby, [R-New Plymouth], says the bill doesn’t prohibit the teaching of any subjects.
“We’re saying teach it in a balanced fashion, but do not impose these thoughts on the kids to the point where they have to agree with them or affirm them or whatever," he said.
Rep. John McCrostie [D-Boise], who is a teacher, says this is not a big issue in schools.
“Hundreds of teachers have shared with me that they didn’t even know what Critical Race Theory is and they had to Google it. If you don’t know what it is, you can’t teach it," he said.
The House approved the bill Thursday by a 57-to-12 vote. The Senate will get it next.
About an hour after the vote, Kurt Liebich, the incoming chairman of the state Board of Education, said he’s surprised this issue has gained this much traction.
“As the session began I would have thought the conversation would be about the impact of the pandemic and how the pandemic has impacted student learning, how it’s magnified the achievement gaps," he said
He says he hasn’t seen any indication that teachers are trying to indoctrinate students, but the board shouldn’t discount legislators’ concerns. He says the board will review its teaching policies and look at how other states are handling this.
“And then I think we need to turn our attention to collecting objective data. Too much of the conversation in the legislature is based on anecdotal evidence. There isn’t a lot of fact or data around this debate. I think as a state board we need to take a leadership role in that area," he said.
Liebich says the board believes in academic freedom where students can have classroom discussions about all kinds of issues.