The issue: WV Republican’s anti-stereotype (anti-CRT) legislation
This weekend’s Wheeling New Register carried an op-ed by WV Delegate Chris Pritt (R-Kanawha) in which he made the case for the legislation he introduced earlier this month:
Anti-Stereotyping Act Strengthens W.Va.’s Public Schools
This is how Pritt summarizes his bill:
The bill ensures that our schools cannot teach that a person should be blamed or held responsible for actions committed by their ancestors. Secondly, the bill goes on to say that the public has a right to know when issues involving terms and concepts like nondiscrimination, diversity, equity, inclusion, race, ethnicity, sex or bias are going to be discussed.
I was especially intrigued by Pritt’s second point – how would the public know when those issues are going to be discussed? By forcing teachers to put their lesson plans online in advance? Pritt claims “no” and he takes a teacher to task for suggesting as much:
Many of those who are speaking out against the bill either have not read it or are purposely misleading the public about what it says. One editorial printed in another newspaper claimed that the bill “would require educators to submit their entire years’ worth of lesson plans by June 30 for a public review.”
One fellow delegate approached me about teachers contacting him on this. Had the author read the bill, she would have known this is blatantly false.
First, his example did not come from an editorial but an op-ed by a teacher, Adena Barnett, in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Secondly, look at his own description: “the public has a right to know when issues . . . are going to be discussed. Finally, Barnett’s statement was not “blatantly false.” Her statement was probably based upon the earlier version of the bill which included the posting of lesson plans. Here is how the WV Metro News described how the bill changed:
The bill would require schools or school systems to publicly post any personnel training materials related to issues such as nondiscrimination, race or sex. Instructional materials about those topics would also have to be posted publicly. A revised version of the bill removed a requirement to post lesson plans.
So yeah, Barnett was probably referencing an early version of the bill. Pritt knew it, but couldn’t resist taking a cheap shot at her, anyway. A classy guy.
When the legislation was brought to the floor, Pritt faced questioning of the bill by Democrats. As the Gazette reported at the time:
During the House’s consideration, Pritt was questioned by two Democratic delegates:
[Sean] Hornbuckle asked for a West Virginia example of an issue the bill is trying to fix.
“Just because we can’t cite a specific example doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” Pritt replied.
He said there are problems throughout the country.
Then another Black lawmaker, Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, asked Pritt to name an example elsewhere in the country. Pritt could not.
Since then, Pritt apparently thinks that he has found a West Virginia example at Wheeling Park High School:
. . . a Wheeling Park High School teacher stated in a video that the works of Abram X. Kendi were being used to teach high school students. What does Dr. Kendi believe? He has said “the life of racism cannot be separated from the life of capitalism,” and “in order to truly be anti-racist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.” Dr. Kendi in an interview in 2020 said he supports defunding the police. Dr. Kendi has said Donald Trump is racist.
I’m not sure what Pritt is objecting to here or how it proves his point: Is it that Kendi has a different view of the connection between capitalism and racism than Pritt does? That Kendi thinks Trump is a racist? Sure, Kendi’s ideas are controversial but that’s often how students come to develop critical thinking skills.
The best reaction to Pritt’s newfound CRT example that I could find came from (of all places) the Wheeling Intelligencer. Last week, an editorial took Pritt to task for suggesting that the local high school was teaching CRT:
". . . It is really important to note Critical Race Theory is not part of our curriculum,” [Wheeling Park Principal Meredith] Dailer added. “It is part of a higher education analysis of the legal system, and that is not covered in our curriculum.”
So there it is — CRT is not part of the curriculum at Wheeling Park. A simple phone call by Pritt to Dailer or any other official in Ohio County Schools could have stopped him from attempting to pin all the state’s education woes on Wheeling Park High School. But instead, thinking he had a smoking gun with a teacher who dared even mention Kendi, Pritt succeeded only in displaying his own ignorance while casting a shadow on the good work being done by a high school teacher.
We need to be better than this.
Additionally, the weekend paper also published an opposing op-ed from John Bolt, a member of the WV Coalition for Truth in History:
'Anti-Racism’ Acts Smokescreens Trying To Whitewash History
Bolt's op-ed makes excellent points:
Don’t be fooled by language that — on the surface — may appear benign.
The real goal is to block presentation of the full history of this country.
Teaching the American Revolution is fine, but not the Tulsa race massacre; teaching about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are encouraged, just don’t talk about them as slave owners — especially about Sally Hemings; Manifest Destiny drove the country’s westward expansion, nevermind the indiscriminate theft from and killing of Indigenous people.
Kudos to our local Ogden papers
Regular readers of this blog know that I have rarely praised our local papers. Last week, however, an editorial spared little in pointing out that Delegate Pritt’s CRT claim was completely bogus. In doing so, the papers indicated that they were not playing their usual role as the mouthpiece for whatever legislation the WV Republican/Trump Party was pushing. Second, the weekend edition published opposing views of a controversial topic instead of what they usually do – publish one conservative point of view. Hopefully, we will see more of this in the future.