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Governor Reynolds signs bill banning “divisive concepts” from public education

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 10:28 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law that would ban “divisive concepts” from being taught in Iowa public schools. The act would focus on ideas related to racism and sexism.

Advocates of the new law say it will help prevent divisiveness in our classrooms. Opponents say however, it’s crucial that we learn about the past including institutionalized racism in our country because that’s how you learn from it.

Divisive concepts are defined as stating that “the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist,” that a race or sex is inherently superior to another, or that a person may have subconscious biases based on their backgrounds.

The law talks about “race or sex scapegoating” which means “assigning fault, blame or bias to a race or sex” based on their background, whether conscious or not.

The Iowan American Civil Liberties Union says the law isn’t stopping divisiveness, but it’s cutting on freedoms of speech and education. Executive Director Mark Stringer says the new law will “get in the way of the kinds of free and frank conversations that I think our students and teachers frankly need right now. This time that we live in is fraught with disagreements about history and race and sexism, and the way to move forward is not to limit conversations on these topics, it’s to encourage more of them.”

The law does state if a student asks a teacher about systemic racism or another concept, the teacher can answer it freely. John Kealey, President of Davenport’s Education Association is a history teacher and says, our students should not be learning a sugar-coated past: “specifically the students of Davenport deserve the freedom to try and figure out what the truth really is in history. And to do that you have to provide many historically researched and backed bits of information, and it takes time, it takes work.” He says historians and teachers fact-check all their curriculum and ensure it tells all sides of the story.

“What we have to do is our best to get the very best we can for our kids. And sometimes the best is understanding our most glorious times and our most painful times because as a nation we try to always learn and not make the same mistakes.”

John Kealey, President of Davenport’s Education Association

The law won’t make an impact on the daily lives of those in the North Scott School District, says Superintendent Joe Stutting. He says “critical race theory” which is what some may call the concept, isn’t taught every day nor is it in every subject. So, it’s only in about 5 percent of their materials that they’d have to look at. “When we live in the polarization of politics the way we have now and in certain subject matters like this, our teachers need guidance to help them how to be balanced in our approach and teach kids. Balance doesn’t mean you avoid subjects because someone may be offended, it’s how you present them that shows both sides or multiple viewpoints,” shares Superintendent Stutting.

Superintendent Stutting goes on to say he’s looking forward to hearing from the Iowa Department of Education on guidance on textbooks, seeing what they may consider as a “divisive concept.” He says there’s no “one such thing” that is critical race theory, but it could be a word or phrase that may be interpreted as much. Stutting says that makes it difficult for the Superintendents to assess what they may share as educators. TV6 has reached out to the Department of Education for comment and has not heard back yet.

“Critical Race Theory is about labels and stereotypes, not education. It teaches kids that we should judge others based on race, gender or sexual identity, rather than the content of someone’s character,” Gov. Reynolds said, in a statement. “I am proud to have worked with the legislature to promote learning, not discriminatory indoctrination.”

“I just think it’s a sad day that this was passed because I don’t think this legislation reflects the good hearts and the open minds of the majority of the people in this state. I don’t think people want to shut down conversation, and so we’re disappointed” says Stringer.

21 States have either introduced legislation to ban “critical race theory” or have already banned it altogether. It will go into effect on July 1 in Iowa.

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