TRENTON, N.J. – Moms and dads have packed school boards meetings because of it. Teachers have resigned over it, saying they don’t want to brainwash their students. Across the country, critical race theory is pitting educators and concerned parents against each other.
Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger believes such advocacy doesn’t belong in the classroom. He plans to introduce legislation that will outright ban it from New Jersey public schools.
“The bully pulpit of the public-school classroom must never be used to indoctrinate New Jersey’s schoolchildren,” Scharfenberger (R-Monmouth) said. “Taxpayer money must go toward teaching the three Rs, and I don’t mean racism, repression and reparations, or whatever cause célèbre is making the rounds now.”
Critical race theory entered the lexicon back in the 1970s, credited to attorney and civil rights activist Derrick Bell. What started as an academic and legal look into how racism affected U.S. law and racial justice has evolved into an ideology that classifies people as the oppressed or oppressors based on sex and race. Some advocates go so far as to say the United States is fundamentally, irredeemably racist and sexist, and must be overthrown.
His bill would prohibit educators and boards of education from creating standards and curriculum, and using supplemental materials, that advocate only one viewpoint, which he said is more and more one-sided politically and ideologically. So-called controversial topics would be impartially taught, with room for varying perspectives.
The bill also requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules prohibiting educators from using the classroom to advocate for political, ideological or religious ideas, and create enforcement guidelines and penalties for noncompliance, including the termination of staff and withholding of state funds from districts that knowingly violate the law.
“Our children must be taught how to think, not what to think,” Scharfenberger said. “We should never pit one group against another and divide us along racial lines. That is racism. We should emphasize the greatness of the United States and the opportunities available to people of all races, ethnicities, and religions.”
As of June 2021, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Idaho have banned critical race theory from their public schools. Other states are looking to follow suit.