Tennessee State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) offered his thoughts on Shelby County Schools’ (SCS) consideration of implementing racial justice and equity training. Ragan shared with The Tennessee Star that a requirement of this training as a condition of employment could potentially be an issue – it would have to be voluntary.
As The Star reported this week, SCS may invest up to $480,000 for the racial justice and equity training offered by the nonprofit New Leaders. Upon review of New Leaders’ materials, The Star discovered that it encourages participants to adopt “culturally responsive” practices in schools – a synonym for critical race theory. Additionally, materials repeatedly assert the need for white people to be aware of their race, privilege, and power.
Ragan told The Star that critical race theory is an offshoot of Marxism.
“These tenets of critical race theory are just Marxist theory with the word ‘race’ inserted. Marxism is a destructive political philosophy that has never worked in the long term for a single country in which it has been tried. In fact, Marxism, with its lack of recognition for divinely bestowed rights, has eventually ruined every society in which it was introduced,” said Ragan. “Marxism, whether it is hidden in a term like critical race theory, or not, has no place in any of Tennessee’s K-12 classrooms. No intelligent person maintains that our country’s mistakes should be hidden from students. In fact, those facts should be presented impartially and unemotionally so that everyone can learn from them. However, along with the mistakes, our country’s greatest successes and principles should also be presented with equal or greater vigor.”
When The Star asked Ragan his thoughts on anti-racism – an idea touted as important for education by New Leaders, and popularized by thought leader Ibram Kendi in his book How to Be Antiracist – the representative said that it was a made-up term. Ragan said that the idea was drawn up to align with Marxist theory.
“Ibram Kendi’s presentations are pure Marxism repackaged. That’s all they are. Marxism was designed to be an atheist approach to everything: there is no standard higher than man; there is no absolute morality; there is no divine endowment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; there is no natural law,” said Ragan. “Condensed to their basics as I understand them, these propositions are that past oppressions can only be redressed by present oppression against the descendants of past oppressors. Moreover, even in the absence of present oppression, victims of past oppression remain permanent victims unless they become oppressors. Additionally, his tenants demand that those whose ancestors were past oppressors must become, and remain, permanently oppressed by his victims of past oppression.”
The Tennessee General Assembly effectively banned critical race theory from K-12 education when it passed Ragan’s bill early last month. The bill impacts what students are taught – not what educators or school employees are trained in by their school district.
The Star also reached out to Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn for comment. Schwinn promised to publish guidance for educators on the critical race theory ban by August 1. Her office told The Star that they are still working on the guidance.
“We are working on our process for our implementation of the law and guidance to districts on compliance with the law,” wrote the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) spokesperson. “We will share it publicly when it is ready.”
TDOE didn’t offer any further remarks on SCS’s plans to implement the racial justice and equity trainings.
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