ND bans critical race theory from public schools, requires curriculum be 'factual, objective'

People hold up signs during a rally against 'critical race theory' (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.
People hold up signs during a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. | AFP via Getty Images/Andrew Caballero

North Dakota has banned the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, becoming the latest state to try to keep the controversial framework from entering the public school curriculum.

Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, signed House Bill 1508 last Friday. The legislation passed the Republican-controlled legislature overwhelmingly: 38-9 in the Senate and 76-16 in the House of Representatives. 

“This bill addresses the concerns of parents while preserving the decision-making authority of local school boards to approve curriculum that is factual, objective and aligned with state content standards,” said Burgum in a statement to Fox News.

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HB 1508 creates a new section to chapter 15.1-21 of the North Dakota Century Code, stating that school districts “may not include instruction relating to critical race theory in any  portion of the district’s required curriculum.”

The new law defines CRT as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, a teachers’ union, denounced efforts to ban CRT from classrooms. Archuleta noted that that the theoretical framework was not part of the state's public school curriculum. Even if CRT is part of the curriculum, Archuleta believes it should be debated rather than censored.

“To be clear, critical race theory is not being taught in North Dakota schools, and public schools are not indoctrinating our children to hate America,” wrote Archuleta in July.

“North Dakota’s outstanding professional educators teach to standards designed by North Dakota teachers for North Dakota students and are overseen by locally elected school boards. Those out-of-state pundits and political provocateurs with no regard for public education in North Dakota do us all a disservice.”

Archuleta contends that, like most Americans, he is a believer in “American exceptionalism,” explaining that the United States “has much to be proud of as a world leader.”

“And I also believe that part of what makes this nation exceptional is our ability to not shy away from our past,” he added.

“We have not been perfect, but we have a history of examining our past, learning from our past, and taking seriously our ongoing desire to form a more perfect union. That is not CRT; that is education.”

Republican State Sen. Donald Schaible, a supporter of the legislation, told InForum that the bill is “more preemptive to try to make sure that it doesn’t come to our schools.”

CRT traces its origins back to the 1970s when academics, especially those in law schools, and others sought to explain the apparent loss of traction of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Most CRT proponents came to believe that the fundamental institutions of the U.S. were inherently and systemically racist, being geared toward defending white elites.

Notable figures of the movement include Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Charles Lawrence III and Mari Matsuda, who in 1993 co-wrote a book titled Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, And The First Amendment.

The CRT proponents contend in the book that their views were “[b]orrowing from and critiquing other intellectual traditions,” including Marxism, feminism, postmodernism and liberalism.

“Our work presented racism not as isolated instances of conscious bigoted decision making or prejudiced practice, but as larger, systemic, structural, and cultural, as deeply psychologically and socially ingrained,” they explained.

Critics, especially conservative activists and intellectuals, have argued that CRT is more racially divisive than informative and mistakenly portrays the U.S. negatively.

Across the country, there have been fierce debates among school boards and parents regarding the inclusion of CRT. Concerned parents have often accused officials of inserting CRT into curricula.

Nicole Neily, the founder of Parents Defending Education, which often challenges the presence of radical leftwing ideas in public schools, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that she does not believe CRT “should be banned.” But she nevertheless takes issue with it being “taught to students” as though it were “the only way.” 

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