Critical race theory (CRT) should be banned from Tennessee’s schools, according to an amended bill pending a final hearing in the Senate. Although the words “critical race theory” don’t appear in the amendment, it does address CRT tenets at length.
The bill now prohibits schools from using curriculum or any supplemental materials that promote conclusions of hierarchies or prejudices based on race or sex, or depict the United States as “fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist” and therefore worthy of overthrow. If any school violates these provisions, the Education Commissioner may withhold any amount of state funding from that school. These provisions appear at the tail end of the 14-page bill.
The amendment was first introduced Monday by the sponsor, State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). He excoriated CRT proponents as “hucksters, charlatans, and useful idiots peddling identity politics” in a lengthy floor speech.
“These additional sections may very well be more important than all of the others. Today, subversive factions are seeking to undermine our unique form of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. These seditious charlatans would, if they could, destroy our heritage of ordered individual liberty under the rule of law before our very eyes.
Disingenuously, these conniving hucksters masquerade as noble champions of the oppressed. Regrettably, they have successfully hoodwinked a number of our fellow citizens into becoming what [Vladimir] Lenin called ‘useful idiots.’ These sincerely-misguided useful idiots have unwittingly succumbed to the idea that there are only three classes of people. These classes are: victims, oppressors, and self-appointed guardians of equity who will beneficently help victims defeat oppressors.
These guardians and useful idiots assert victimhood is solely the function of group identity based on race, sex, lifestyle, ethnicity, etc. Likewise, they maintain only two things are required to be an oppressor. Firstly, an oppressor becomes one merely by being a member of a non-victim group. Secondly, even if [one is] a former part of a victim group, one becomes an oppressor by deceitfully betraying victim status and achieving success through merit and hard work.
Moreover – regardless of their starting station in life, effort, talent, skill or achievement – oppressors are irrevocably guilty or unearned privilege. Furthermore, a victim can never escape their foreordained status without help from champions and useful idiots through government intervention. Similarly, even if their circumstances are worse than any member of a victim group, an oppressor can never atone for the guilt of privilege.
Ragan read aloud emailed quotes from the daughter of one of his constituents. A 7-year-old girl reportedly told her mother that she was ashamed of being white, then asked if there was something wrong with her and why she was hated so much. According to the constituent, the little girl became depressed, fearful, and suicidal, and no longer wants to attend school.
“These emailed quotes illustrate eloquently why I have proposed this amendment[,]” said Ragan. “Some mistakenly believe that people should be treated differently based on the color of their skin or their national origin. I declare emphatically: those people are wrong. The America that I love and took an oath to defend recognizes that all citizens stand equally before the law.”
According to Ragan, he received “quite a number” of emails detailing similar situations occurring in the state.
Nonprofit social advocacy organization Tennessee Stands criticized the legislation because it has “no teeth.” Tennessee Stands expressed a lack of confidence in leaving oversight up to the Tennessee Commissioner of Education.
They pointed out how current Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, attempted to initiate well-being checks for children during COVID-19 and pushed for public education initiatives they called “ripe for CRT types of instruction.”
“We are not voicing opposition to the bill. But [we] continue to put forward the message that bills coming out of this General Assembly are toothless. They make great headlines for GOP’ers to campaign on but have minimal impact in practical application,” wrote the organization in a series of tweets. “The Commissioner alone gets to determine whether or not a violation occurred. The Commissioner alone determines ‘how much’ funding is withheld from the school district for noncompliance.”
Tennessee Stands suggested that parent-based reporting systems or district-based panels made up of educators, school board members, and parents would better serve to monitor for violations of the legislation.
The Tennessee Star reached out to Ragan to discuss his amendment. He didn’t respond with comment by press time.
The complete list of prohibited subject matter in the amendment is reproduced below:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;
(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of an individual’s race or sex;
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex;
(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist;
(9) Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government;
(10) Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people; or
(11) Ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.
The Senate passed the previous version of the bill about one month ago. If the House passes this amended version of the legislation, the Senate must consider adopting the House version of the bill.
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