Several University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) professors are speaking out about the so-called “divisive concepts” bill that has taken effect in Tennessee, which they oppose.
“Professors and faculty at universities and colleges are specially qualified to teach the classes that they teach. They need to be in charge of what goes on in their classrooms and when the legislature comes in and starts dictating what can and cannot be discussed, that disrupts the entire purpose of higher education,” UTK professor Kristina Gehrman told 10News.
Sociology professor Jon Shefner is also unhappy with the law.
“Sociology is based on understanding inequalities and this law suggests that talking about inequalities is divisive and it’s not,” he reportedly said.
One professor, Sarah Eldridge, says she fears getting in trouble for discriminating against white men.
“I worry that someone could decide that I am discriminating against white men generally or could decide that I am teaching something that is divisive, but to me that is history,” she said.
Divisive concepts bills have taken effect nationwide in states led by Republicans.
The bills have been enacted to combat the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which many Republicans view as a way to indoctrinate children into a liberal system of beliefs.
CRT teaches through a lens of racial and sexual oppression.
Tennessee’s HB2670 bans teaching content that “promotes division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people,” and teaching concepts that “ascribes 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.”
It also codifies that students and faculty members at public institutions cannot be discriminated against for their beliefs.
“A student or employee of a public institution of higher education must not be penalized, discriminated against, or receive any adverse treatment due to the student’s or employee’s refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to one or more divisive concepts,” according to the bill.
The law, which was introduced in February and passed in March, took effect before the school year began.
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