OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Debate continues outside the Oklahoma Capitol on a bill that would restrict the teaching of certain theories on race in Oklahoma schools.
House Bill 1775 has passed through the legislature and is currently sitting on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. Supporters say it bans topics like critical race theory because they are harmful to students. But what is that theory?
“What critical race theory talks about are the policies and the law. The focus is on the discrimination itself and the hurt that discrimination caused those people,” said Christopher Lehman.
Lehman, an Edmond native and Oklahoma State University graduate, is a professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He teaches critical race theory. But supporters of House Bill 1775 say the theory increases the racial divide by teaching that people are inherently racist because of the color of their skin.
“They cannot say that there is a superior race, so we are stopping the teaching of those things,” said Sen. David Bullard of Durant.
“Critical race theory does not teach that people of different skin colors are better. When I teach it, I don’t focus on how people feel about other people of color. I focus on the actions that the laws and the policies prescribe,” said Lehman.
Lawmakers told us that historical events concerning race should still be taught, but critical race theory, they say, increases the race divide.
“Those are things that don’t have to be taught and should not be taught to our kids that’s unhealthy for race relations,” said Bullard.
“Teaching about critical race theory doesn’t promote the racial divide maybe any more than teaching what Hitler did promotes Nazism,” said Lehman.
Education officials are coming out against the bill. The head of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board, Paula Lewis, tweeted that HB 1775 was “an outright racist and oppressive piece of legislation.”
“The development of this bill was done without the input, one, of educators and, two, without people of color,” said Milwood Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods.
Lawmakers say the teaching of these theories is happening in Oklahoma
“Critical race theory and other curriculum that have been out there for quite a while now and are starting to work their way into our schools,” said Bullard.
But Dr. Sean McDaniel, the Oklahoma City Public School superintendent, said otherwise in the following statement:
“HB 1775 appears to be a solution looking for a problem which does not exist. OKCPS follows the guidance of OSDE, teaching the state-determined Oklahoma Academic Standards using state-approved curriculum resources. We believe it is important that we continue to learn both about and from our past in order to build an enlightened and resilient future. As we do this, OKCPS will continue to provide a welcoming and inclusive learning and work environment. We stand firmly by our Vision for Equity Board Policy and remain ‘committed to creating, building, and sustaining an environment that embraces racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity and that provides equitable access to a high standard of educational success for all students with the intention of closing achievement gaps, particularly for student groups with the greatest academic needs in the district.’
We have teachers across the district who we trust to make decisions — sometimes life and death decisions — on behalf of our students each and every day. Surely we can continue to trust our educators to guide these difficult yet necessary conversations with our students inside of their classrooms. OKCPS strongly encourages Governor Stitt to veto HB 1775.”DR. SEAN MCDANIEL, OKLAHOMA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT
Now we can confirm that critical race theory is taught at some colleges, including the University of Oklahoma.
We talked to several metro districts; each said they don’t teach these theories on the K-12 level.
As for what Stitt will do, his office says he will not make a decision whether to sign or veto the bill until late in the week.