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How House Bill 324 Affects K-12 Education in North Carolina

The controversial House Bill 324, which aims to limit the teaching of certain concepts related to race and gender in public schools, has sparked a heated debate among educators, parents, and lawmakers in North Carolina. The bill, which passed the House in August and is awaiting action in the Senate, has been criticized by opponents as an attempt to whitewash history and silence diverse perspectives, while supporters claim it is necessary to prevent indoctrination and promote patriotism.

What does House Bill 324 say?

House Bill 324, also known as the “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools” act, would prohibit public school teachers from promoting or endorsing the following concepts:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior or inferior to another race or sex.
  • An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
  • An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex.
  • An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
  • Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.
  • The belief that the United States is a meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed to oppress members of another race or sex.
  • The term “systemic racism” means the collective actions of a majority race are inherently racist or oppressive, or that individuals of a particular race cannot be racist or oppressive.

The bill would also require the State Board of Education to adopt rules to ensure that these concepts are not promoted or endorsed in any curriculum standards, instructional materials, or professional development programs. Additionally, the bill would allow parents and guardians to inspect any instructional materials used in their child’s education and to file complaints if they believe the bill’s provisions are violated.

How House Bill 324 Affects K-12 Education in North Carolina

Why is House Bill 324 controversial?

House Bill 324 has been met with strong opposition from many educators, civil rights groups, and Democratic lawmakers, who argue that the bill would censor teachers from teaching the truth about the history and present of racism and sexism in the United States, and prevent students from developing critical thinking and empathy skills. They also contend that the bill is based on a distorted and politicized interpretation of the academic framework known as critical race theory, which examines how race and power shape laws, policies, and institutions.

Greg Childress, an education reporter for NC Policy Watch, said that the bill is part of a national trend of conservative backlash against the growing awareness and activism around racial justice issues, especially after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.

Childress said that the bill’s supporters are using “fear tactics” and “misinformation” to rally their base and appeal to white voters who feel threatened by the changing demographics and culture of the country. He said that the bill’s opponents are not advocating for teaching students to hate America or themselves, but rather to acknowledge and address the systemic and structural inequities that affect people of color, women, and other marginalized groups.

“They’re not trying to make students feel guilty or ashamed, they’re trying to make them aware and informed,” Childress said. “They’re trying to prepare them for a diverse and global society, where they can interact and collaborate with people who have different backgrounds and experiences.”

What are the implications of House Bill 324 for K-12 education in North Carolina?

If House Bill 324 becomes law, it could have significant consequences for the quality and content of K-12 education in North Carolina, as well as the morale and retention of teachers and students. Childress said that the bill could create a chilling effect on teachers, who may feel intimidated or confused about what they can and cannot teach, and may face harassment or lawsuits from parents or administrators who disagree with their pedagogy. He said that the bill could also undermine the efforts of the State Board of Education, which recently adopted new social studies standards that emphasize diversity, inclusion, and multiple perspectives.

“This bill would basically undo all the work that the State Board of Education has done to make the curriculum more relevant and responsive to the needs and interests of the students,” Childress said. “It would take away the opportunity for students to learn from different sources and viewpoints, and to engage in meaningful discussions and debates about the issues that affect their lives and their communities.”

Childress said that the bill could also have a negative impact on the academic achievement and social-emotional development of students, especially those who belong to historically oppressed groups. He said that the bill could make them feel invisible, invalidated, or unwelcome in the school environment, and could deprive them of the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and career. He said that the bill could also increase the racial and gender achievement gaps, and exacerbate the existing challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers of color and women in STEM fields.

“This bill would send a message to the students that their identities, their histories, their cultures, their experiences, are not valued or respected in the education system,” Childress said. “It would make them feel like they don’t belong, or that they have to assimilate or conform to a dominant narrative that does not reflect their reality.”

Childress said that the bill could also affect the reputation and competitiveness of North Carolina as a state that values education and innovation. He said that the bill could discourage potential students, teachers, and businesses from coming to or staying in the state, and could damage the state’s relationship with the federal government, which provides funding and guidance for education programs.

“This bill would make North Carolina look backward and isolated, instead of forward and inclusive,” Childress said. “It would make North Carolina lose its edge and its appeal as a place that fosters creativity and diversity, and that prepares its students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”

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