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Idaho resolution criticizes critical race theory, ‘1619 Project’ as ‘divisive content’

Feb. 18, 2022 Updated Fri., Feb. 18, 2022 at 10:07 p.m.

Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville, introduced a resolution that criticizes critical race theory and “The 1619 Project.” It’s now headed for a Senate vote.  (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)
Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville, introduced a resolution that criticizes critical race theory and “The 1619 Project.” It’s now headed for a Senate vote. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)
By Becca Savransky Idaho Statesman

A resolution that encourages Idaho schools to teach history “clearly and wholly” and calls out critical race theory and “The 1619 Project” is headed for a Senate vote.

The resolution – introduced by Sen. Carl Crabtree, a Grangeville Republican – states that “divisive content” is appearing in curriculum across the country. It claims that theories taught under critical race theory and The 1619 Project, a feature by the New York Times on slavery’s impact, “attempt to re-educate children into the belief that they are to be ashamed of or limited by their race and ethnicity.”

The resolution also urges schools to teach children “not only the offenses, but also the triumphs.” If passed by both chambers, the legislation would act as a statement and would not change state law.

“It is imperative that children are taught about mistakes as well as unprecedented accomplishments toward freedom and fairness for all,” the resolution said.

Critical race theory, according to the American Bar Association, “recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. It acknowledges that “the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation.”

The New York Times has said “The 1619 Project” aims to reframe U.S. history through a focus on Black Americans’ contributions and slavery’s consequences. It’s faced backlash since former President Donald Trump attacked the project in 2020 and said it “rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.”

During a Senate committee meeting, Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, a Boise Democrat and retired school teacher, raised concerns about parts of the resolution that mentions divisive teachings.

“Some of those things really concern me. We’re not seeing that here in Idaho,” Ward-Engelking said. “In fact, I think we’ve done pretty extensive work to see what’s happening in our classrooms and also in our universities. I guess I’m wondering why we need this resolution.”

She added that teachers know how important it is to explain all sides of an argument and teach in an unbiased way.

Crabtree said there are many who believe “divisive” issues are being taught, and there is a “difference of opinion” on where they are happening.

“I think the idea is to call attention to it, rather than to criticize anybody or ostracize anybody as a result,” he said.

Law bars teaching races are ‘responsible’ for actions in past

The resolution comes a year after the Legislature passed a bill sparked by conversations of critical race theory in schools.

That bill, signed into law last year, prohibits schools and universities from directing students to “affirm, adopt or adhere” to the idea that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is “inherently superior or inferior” or that people of a certain race or identity are “inherently responsible for actions committed in the past.”

Over the summer, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin created a task force to investigate the unsubstantiated claims of indoctrination in Idaho schools. The committee was made up primarily of people who agreed with the claims, and included few current educators. At the committee’s fourth and final meeting, it heard from the public and released a vague set of recommendations.

K-12 educators told the Idaho Statesman last year critical race theory was not taught in classrooms.

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