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Academic freedom is at the heart of a successful education system in Idaho – Idaho Capital Sun

Harper Lee’s 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a cherished classic of American literature, loved by millions and one of the most frequently awarded titles in high schools across the United States.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has resonated around the world for its appeal to conscience and its sensitive, truthful depiction of life in a small Depression-era Southern town. I taught “To Kill a Mockingbird” for nine years in my English classes. It’s a book that teaches important lessons about conscience (“The only thing that violates majority rule is a person’s conscience”), and empathy (“Atticus was right. He once said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. All you have to do is stand on Radley’s porch.”

In April 2021, during the Idaho Legislature’s anti-critical race theory frenzy that resulted in House Bill 377, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, claimed that critical race theory “has crept into our schools forever.” She then cited “To Kill a Mockingbird” as evidence of how critical race theory indoctrinates children in Idaho.

“‘To kill a mockingbird.’ [The substitute teacher] said the message was clear: white people are bad, black people are innocent victims, and students were encouraged to believe there was an endless era of black victimization. That’s what we teach here, says Scott.

House Bill 377 is an effort by the Idaho Legislature to restrict the teaching of critical race theory and limit discussion of social justice issues in the classroom. HB 377 was introduced following House Republicans’ punishment of Idaho’s colleges, universities, and libraries with budget cuts to provide diversity programs, teach social justice, and make banned books available. K-12 teacher salaries were also threatened with retaliation if evidence of Critical Race Theory teaching was uncovered.

HB 377 weaponizes the Legislature’s ability to use fiscal policy to control what is taught in Idaho schools. As an educator, I am appalled by HB 377 and its stifling effects on academic freedom.

The anti-critical rhetoric of race theory has completely misrepresented what critical race theory really is. Blackfoot representative Julianne Young claimed that critical race theory “pitches” the oppressor against the oppressed and “teaches children to hate themselves and their country.” The armed critical race theory is a strategy for the Republican Party. Statements like these seek to control how educators discuss the nation’s history and impose educational gag orders on open and honest discussions of history.

Critical race theory is an academic concept and framework for legal analysis developed by legal scholars in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Critical race theory views race as a social construct (race has no biological basis) and that racism is not simply the product of individual prejudice or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. America didn’t suddenly stop being racist because of Brown v. Board of Education or because Martin Luther King Jr. gave a powerful speech or because Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Recently, a group of Twin Falls residents deeply concerned about the impassioned rhetoric about the perceived influence of critical race theory and the anti-critical race theory frenzy that politicizes public education formed an organization ad hoc called Magic Valley Knowledge Seekers. MVKS was organized to sponsor an educational presentation titled “Defining and Understanding Critical Race Theory” by former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice and Republican State Attorney General Jim Jones. The purpose of the MVKS in bringing Judge Jones to Twin Falls was to provide the public with a balanced and objective overview of what critical race theory is and is not.

In order to protect publicly funded colleges and school districts from punishment for violating HB 377 sanctions, Twin Falls Presbyterian Church has agreed, as a public service, to provide the venue for Judge Jones’ presentation. .

Academic freedom, the fundamental right of a teacher or professor to teach without undue government interference, is at the heart of a successful education system. Critical thinking has never been more important than it is today, and it teaches students to be analytical and objective. Magic Valley Knowledge Seekers are driven by the belief that a deeper understanding of Critical Race Theory begins with providing the public with an investigation based on reliable, reliable information.

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