OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill has been filed at the Oklahoma State Capitol that would limit how professors and teachers can teach about racism and slavery.
“It insists upon in teaching it in balance and in context,” Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Sallisaw, said.
Olsen is talking about House Bill 2988 that he filed at the State Capitol earlier this week.
“It doesn’t prohibit anybody from teaching that America had slavery, that it was evil and that we’re better for. It doesn’t prohibit teaching that we’re better for not having slavery,” Olsen said.
However, the bill does prohibit Oklahoma universities and school districts from teaching components of the 1619 Project.
The bill reads:
“No state agency, school district, charter school, online instruction funded in any manner by the Oklahoma Legislature, or personnel or agent of such state agency, school district, charter school, or online instruction shall teach, use, or provide for use by any pupil any curricula, instructional materials, or assignments designed to teach components of the 1619 Project as part of any curricula, course syllabi, or instruction in any course or program of study, including,
- Any teaching that America has more culpability, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery;
- That one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery;
- That another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery;
- That America, in general, had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations; or
- The primary and overarching purpose for the founding of America was the initiation and perpetuation of slavery.”
“I don’t know about Oklahoma, but there are some that teach that the whole purpose in the founding of America was to initiate and perpetuate slavery and, you know, that’s not true,” Olsen said.
Some educators are speaking out against the bill. OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote on Twitter, “This is very disturbing. They are cranking this legislation out faster than the courts can keep up. In the meantime, we have no intention of lying to our students or bowing to this assault on truth and academic freedom.”
“I specifically put in the text of the bill that they can teach, we have slavery, that it was bad. So, no, they would not be required to lie,” Olsen said.
Democrats in opposition to the bill, like Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, are calling the bill “embarrassing” and “a waste of time.”
“I desperately wish that our Legislature would do more, with the immense power that we have, to help people. This doesn’t help people. It does nothing to further the conversation about race and I think it’s an important one to have,” Said Bennett. “It also distracts from so many of the other issues that are facing Oklahoma today.”