INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is leading a multistate coalition of 20 attorneys general in urging the Biden administration to reconsider proposals that would put critical race theory and similar curriculum into American classrooms.
Critical race theory (CRT) essentially teaches students how racism has shaped American policy, with the main idea being that racism is a social construct.
CRT has been around since the 1970s. It has sparked debate in school districts, city halls and statehouses across the country. Opponents fear CRT would rewrite history, while proponents argue the teaching would help emphasize the importance of examining and attempting to understand how racism shapes different people in different ways.
Rokita called the teachings "deeply flawed" and "radical." He said CRT and similar curriculum is "woven" into a new proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Education that establishes priorities for grants in American history and civic education classes.
“We don’t need a new liberal indoctrination project that endorses factually-deficient instruction and racial division," Rokita argued.
Rokita and attorneys general from the following 19 states signed a letter urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to have his department reconsider the proposal: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
“I’m thankful for the leadership of my colleagues in joining us to call on the Biden administration to reverse course on this reckless federal imposition into our schools," Rokita said.
In the letter, the group of attorneys general said they want the U.S. Department of Education to review the directives for teaching “traditional American history” as prescribed in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is a federal school accountability law rooted in eliminating barriers to student success.
“Congress made clear that the purpose of the (ESSA) programs is to advance a traditional understanding of American history, civics, and government,” the letter states. “The proposed priorities would do little to advance that goal.”
However, according to a statement of intent written in the ESSA, the law's purpose is to "provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps."
Rokita was a member of Congress from Indiana's 4th congressional district from 2011 to 2018. He said ESSA was meant to "get away from Washington-driven one-size-fits-all education policies and teach traditional American history and civics."