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Senate passes “curriculum guidance” bill

Berry Craig
Berry Craig

The Kentucky Senate has approved one of four controversial Republican-sponsored bills in the current session of the General Assembly that are aimed at limiting discussion of systemic racism in schools.

SB 138, the “Teaching America’s Principles Act,” passed 28-8 on a straight party-line vote. The measure mandates how American history must be taught.

Backers of the measure say it promotes unity. Opponents say SB 138 is divisive, censors teachers and whitewashes history.

The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), Senate Education Committee chairman, modified the original version of the bill.  “We’re not telling teachers what they can and cannot teach and what our students can or cannot learn,” WDRB quoted the lawmaker.

The other measures are House Bills 14, 18 and 487. All four bills stem from the national controversy over Critical Race Theory, a scholarly study of how racism affects law and public policy. But CRT is taught in law school and some graduate schools, not elementary and secondary schools.

Jim Johnson, a retired Louisville public school teacher, opposes the bills. He says they are “intended to restrict, limit, and impede what teachers in public schools or public charter schools can teach in relation to race, sex, or religion.”

Added Johnson: “As Republicans, Democrats, and independents, we all agree that free speech is the cornerstone of any representative democracy. Evidently [Republican lawmakers] have forgotten the famous words of Voltaire, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.’”

SB 138 now heads to the House. Given the 75-25 GOP majority, the bill seems likely to pass.

If the House votes like the Senate, the Republicans can easily override a veto by Gov. Andy Beshear. An override requires a simple majority of both houses.


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)