The debate on critical race theory hit a peak in Wisconsin Tuesday, when the Wisconsin Assembly voted to pass a bill banning the subject from being taught in the classroom.
The bill, initially introduced by a group of Wisconsin Republicans in June, would prohibit public schools, the University of Wisconsin System and state-run technical colleges from teaching students, as well as training educators, on matters related to implicit bias and systemic racism, which are topics more often referred to as critical race theory (CRT).
According to Education Week, CRT is, “a social construct, and that racism is not the product of bias or prejudice, but something embedded in legal systems and policies.”
As is the case with similar bills seen throughout the nation, CRT is never specifically mentioned in the bill, however, the prohibited teaching topics agree with many experts’ definitions of critical race theory.
“What is the harm in ensuring that we make every single person in the state realize that we don’t want sexism, we don’t want racism, we don’t want stereotyping in our schools?” said Republic Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, during debate on the bill.
“What you see, also, in many programs in higher education and K-12 is this idea of the principle of collective guilt,” said Chris Rufo, Manhattan Institute senior fellow at an informational hearing Wednesday.
At the same hearing, supporters of the bill argued that allowing for the teaching of CRT might lead to teachers implementing their own political viewpoints into the classroom.
The bill, which saw no Democratic co-sponsors, is part of a larger nationwide Republican movement to prohibit the teaching of CRT in schools. The bill in Wisconsin has faced intense scrutiny from Democrats. Opponents often cite the bill as an attempt to seize power from school districts and argue that supporters of the bill have a fundamental misinterpretation of what critical race theory is.
Gordon Hintz, Assembly Minority Leader, called the bill “part of a national movement to create a new boogeyman in the culture wars to use fear and resentment to motivate base voters.”
“I think part of my job is not to shy away from topics that my students will disagree with, that will be kind of divisive amongst them,” said John Zumbrunnen, UW-Madison vice provost of Teaching and Learning.
The bill will be voted on by the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is also expected to pass along party lines.
After the senate, the bill will land on the desk of Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who is expected to veto the bill. Earlier this year, Evers declined to comment as to whether or not he would veto the bill. If Evers does veto the bill, Wisconsin Republicans would have to start from scratch, not likely possessing the 2/3 majority it would take to overturn the Governors’ veto.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.