ARIZONA, USA — Governor Doug Ducey signed a law Friday which he says will ban 'critical race theory' from being taught in public schools.
One local civil rights advocate criticized the law as vague and said it was an attempt to “whitewash” American history.
Law signed after flurry of parent protests
As 12 News recently reported, parents around the Valley voiced concerns at school board meetings about the prospect of new history lessons about the Black American experience drawn from 'critical race theory'.
No districts were considering changes to the curriculum, but that did not stop protests.
According to educators, 'critical race theory' is an academic movement that examines America’s history through the lens of race and racism.
It teaches concepts like white privilege, microaggressions and institutionalized racism. All of which are concepts that many educators said help students understand the state of America today.
Critics argue the teachings draw unrealistic conclusions about present-day racism in America and that the concepts may amount to discrimination against white people.
The penalty for schools that violate the new law is up to a $5,000 fine.
Law intended to prevent “regressive” lessons
The law signed by Ducey on Friday warns against using history to make any single ethnicity feel guilt or shame for past events.
The law does not allow a state employee to engage in training that “presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.”
The law’s wording does not mention the phrase “critical race theory." However, it includes a ban against what some might interpret as “white guilt”, teachings that “an individual should feel discomfort…or any other form of psychological distress because of the individual’s race…”
In a statement, Ducey defended the law by saying it is “going a long way… towards protecting Arizonans against divisive and regressive lessons.”
Bill sponsor Michelle Udall, a teacher herself, said, “We should be focused on bringing people together, not pushing people apart.”
Opponents criticize law for being vague
State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman criticized the law as amounting to “vague bans on content.” Hoffman also said in a statement that legislators should have focused efforts during the most recent session on the mental health and well-being of students.
Phoenix-area high school principal Kenneth Smith is part of an alliance of activists who’ve met with Governor Ducey’s staff during the legislative session. Smith said that the law ignores the concerns of members of minority communities.
“The governor just whitewashed Arizona education by saying, ‘Look we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because we don’t want white people to feel hurt,” Smith said. “If we don’t want feelings hurt then we should just close the book and throw it away and burn it.”
Smith also talked about the consequences of the law on education of the past.
“The fact of the matter is this country was built on slavery. It was built, physically and politically, on the backs of slaves. So the fact we cannot have that conversation and we cannot have it truthfully shows people are more scared of the truth than perpetuating a lie,” Smith said.
Track all of our current updates with Arizona politics on our 12 News YouTube channel. Subscribe for updates on all of our new uploads.