A bill introduced on the first day of Georgia’s new legislative session seeks to prohibit schools from teaching the tenets of critical race theory (CRT) and instead promote an education focusing on how Americans overcome injustice and fulfill the nation’s founding ideals.
House Bill 888, introduced on Thursday by Republican state Rep. Thomas Brad, begins with a statement countering the claim that systemic racism is woven into America’s social institutions—an idea popularized by proponents of CRT, who see deeply embedded racism in all aspects of American life.
“Slavery, racial discrimination under the law, and racism in general are so inconsistent with the founding principles of the United States,” the statement reads, pointing to the civil war and political campaigns that ended slavery and racially discriminatory laws, as well as the change in public opinion that has long rendered racism unacceptable.
“All of which dispels the idea that the United States and its institutions are systemically racist and confutes the notion that slavery, racial discrimination under the law, and racism should be at the center of public elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions,” it states.
Citing the federal anti-discrimination laws, the bill moves on to prohibit public schools and teachers from teaching specific ideas that are part of or derived from the CRT, such as that anyone should be adversely or advantageously treated because of race; that anyone should “bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past” by other members of the same race; or that any merit-based system or program be created by members of one race to oppress those of another race.
Also among the prohibited concepts is the idea that “the United States is a systemically racist country.” If passed as is, the bill would effectively prohibit Georgia teachers from utilizing materials from the New York Times’ revisionist “1619 Project,” which sparked widespread criticism for portraying the United States as an inherently racist country founded primarily to preserve slavery.
In addition, House Bill 888 would make it a graduation requirements for high schools students to complete and pass a separate semester course covering the founding philosophy and principles expressed in key documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. That course would also cover “transformational movements in American history,” including the antislavery movement, the Civil Rights movement, women’s suffrage, the contributions of immigrants to American society, and the history of the Native Americans.
The 18-page proposal would also require that school boards establish a complaint resolution process to address violations. Schools that fail to remediate any such violation will risk having their funding withheld by the state.
The bill was introduced shortly before Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, in his State of the State speech announced a $2,000 teacher pay raise and condemned the effort to inject CRT and partisan politics into classrooms.
“From the classroom to the ball field, there are those who want to divide our kids along political lines, push partisan agendas, and indoctrinate students from all walks of life,” Kemp said. “This is wrong, it’s dangerous, and as long as I’m governor, it will not take root in Georgia.”
“That’s why I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly this legislative session to protect our students from divisive ideologies—like critical race theory—that pit kids against each other,” he continued, adding that he looks forward to signing “a parental bill of rights” and other pieces of legislation aimed to ensure “fairness in school sports” and tackle “obscene materials” in school libraries.