Last week, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed into law HB 377, which bans the teaching of theories that “exacerbate and inflame division on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin” or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation and the well being of the citizens of Idaho. In so doing, Idaho becomes the first state in the nation to outlaw the controversial pedagogy called “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), which reduces most history to a tale of oppression, usually by one racial group over another, and teaches as a corollary the need for oppressed groups to work for revolutionary liberation. In America, the oppressors are said to be “whites” while those oppressed are “people of color.”
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) commends Idaho's legislators and governor for rejecting the identity politics of Critical Race Theory and for affirming individual freedom of thought.
CRT theories have long been taught behind closed doors in schools of education but are now shocking parents nationwide as they stigmatize and shame some children while giving victim status to others, all on the basis of race.
Such racial stereotyping in education and employment already violates federal law, but President Trump took additional steps to ban divisive concepts in the federal workforce and in federal contracting with his EO 13950. The Biden Administration rescinded that EO its first day.
State legislators in several other states have submitted their own bills, similar to Idaho’s, to reinstate the Trump policy. These states include Texas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma.
But IFF President Wayne Hoffman says that the Idaho law doesn’t go far enough because it does not ban the training of teachers with CRT precisely in schools of education. “Teacher certification demands that educators promote social justice,” he reports, and the largest teachers union in the state continues to hold workshops integrating CRT into classrooms. “Much more needs to be done,” he concludes.
As with many laws, Idaho’s new legislation may be challenged in court as a violation of the free speech of educators. No court has yet ruled on these issues.
If it is struck down, we recommend that Idaho legislators examine Texas House Bill 3979 as an alternate model for how to remove Critical Race Theory from the public schools. HB 3979, itself drawing on the model Partisanship Out of Civics Act, has been carefully drafted to survive legal challenges. We believe that Idaho's law should not be struck down--but if it is, we suggest Texas HB 3979's language will help Idaho's elected officials to reach the same goal.
But NAS hopes that will not be necessary. We trust no judge will prevent the application of this new law, which is needed and proper. Idaho's citizens and elected representatives have made their state a model for the nation.
Teresa Manning is Policy Director at the National Association of Scholars.