North Carolina Passes K-12 Social Studies Standards Focusing on Race

February 5, 2021 Updated: February 5, 2021

A politically divided North Carolina Board of Education on Thursday narrowly approved the state’s K-12 social studies standards, which has been criticized for implementing elements of critical race theory.

In a vote largely split along party lines, the board’s Democratic majority voted 7-5 to pass the revised standards. In the wake of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, the board voted in July to delay the adoption of the standards (pdf) to include “diverse histories, experiences, and perspectives of racial, ethnic, gender, and identity minority groups, as well as marginalized, undervalued, and underrepresented groups.”

Under the newly-passed standards, which will be put in place this fall, North Carolina’s second-graders are required to learn how “various indigenous, religious, gender, and racial groups advocate for freedom and equality.” Fourth-grader are asked to explain how “revolution, reform, and resistance” shaped their state. Eighth-grade teachers are asked to teach “how slavery segregation, voter suppression, reconcentration, and other discriminatory practices have been used to suppress and exploit certain groups within North Carolina and the nation over time.”

The proposed standards were met with immediate opposition from the board’s Republican members, including Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the first black person to hold his office. Robinson launched an online campaign to stop its adoption, which he declared would “indoctrinate our students against our great country and our founders.”

“I don’t think they’re for the benefit of the students. I think they’re for the benefit of those who have a political agenda,” said Robinson during a board discussion, reported Carolina Journal. “They are politically charged, divisive, and they smack of a lot of leftist talk.”

“I know all of the code words, and I know what they lead to. I don’t like where they will lead our students,” Robinson said. As of Thursday, his online petition had gathered nearly 30,000 supporting signatures.

The standards come with a preamble written by State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, the Republican board member who joined the Democrats to cast the tie-breaking vote. She wrote in the document that students should learn about both the “hard truths” and accomplishments in the nation’s history.

“Let us study the past such that all students can celebrate our achievements towards a more perfect union while acknowledging that the sins of our past still linger in the everyday lives of many,” the preamble reads. “Let us study the past so we can understand where it might lead us today.”

In a statement released after Thursday’s vote, Robinson said he would continue to fight against what he considered “leftist indoctrination.”

“Let me be clear,” Robinson said. “This is not over. I will continue to lead the fight to ensure that our students are educated, not indoctrinated.”