Ohio House Bills censor history education


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Staff Reporter, Paul Raglow-DeFranco, discusses bills in Ohio that could alter education for years to come.

Paul Raglow-DeFranco, Staff Reporter

Most students leave school without a clear understanding of the systematic racism that has plagued America since its founding. Yet, certain state legislatures are threatening to make matters even worse by completely removing topics of racism from the curriculum. 

Ohio Republican lawmakers are continuing to push back against “divisive” and “controversial” topics, limiting what teachers can and cannot teach their students. House Bill 322 and House Bill 327 are the latest of what have been several attempts by Ohio lawmakers to censor education. House Bill 322 and House Bill 327 are currently being heard in Ohio’s House State and Local Governmental Committee. That begs the question, what exactly are these bills?

According to HB 322’s language, it would prohibit teachers from teaching “prohibited concepts” like one race or sex is “inherently superior” to another race or sex. Teachers cannot teach that people are “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive” and prohibits the State Board of Education from creating a curriculum regarding these topics. These bans restrict the use of lesson plans, textbooks, materials and concepts related to the “prohibited concepts.” To top it all off, students are not allowed to receive course credit for courses about “social and public policy advocacy.”

As for House Bill 327, it contains many of the same provisions as House Bill 322.  It prohibits the promotion, teaching and training of “divisive concepts.” Both bills state that teaching about these concepts could lead to some legal punishments. If a school is caught teaching these “divisive” concepts, it would lose 25% of state funding for the first offense, 50% for the second and 100% for the third. 

Why should the children suffer on behalf of the teachers educating “divisive” concepts? For a bill that claims to be protecting the children from “adverse treatment,” taking away funds to their schools seems to be doing just the opposite.

Proponents of these bills argue that educating students on the history of systemic racism is painting a negative picture of America. Ohio Rep. Don Jones, a Republican sponsor of the bill, claimed, “My fear is we are teaching kids what to think rather than how to think.” 

Yet, by taking away a teacher’s ability to educate their students on past legislation, students will never be able to develop their own opinions. Not only would past legislation regarding racism be eliminated but discussing up-to-date policies would be prohibited as well. House Bill 322 plans to eliminate any discussion of “current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.” Eliminating meaningful class discussions will not protect students from “divisive” topics, instead many will feel even more alone as they won’t have the ability to express their opinions without being punished.

While these bills claim to be sparing the children from the “divisive” content that makes children feel bad about their skin color due to the history of racism, what these bills are actually doing is using children as the scapegoat to push back against the racist past that many are afraid to admit to. Denying children the historical past shows fear, trepidation and cowardice from those afraid to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. It is essential to continue to teach children about the social injustices that have and are continuing to occur to be able to pave the way for a future free of systemic inequities.

Not only are these bills denying children the right to be educated on the history of systemic racism, but they are also forcing teachers to relay the wrong information. House Bill 322 would require teachers to portray systemic racism as “deviations from, betrayals of, or failures” of American values rather than the fact that people were inherently racist or oppressive towards another color. If this were the case, why were African Americans lynched for voting or beaten for sitting down at a “Whites Only” restaurant? These new teachings deprive students of the factual truth of racism and by deflecting (or denying) the reality of America’s past, students will fail to understand what laws need to be implemented in the future to make sure these racist laws never come to fruition again.

Legislations like House Bill 322 and House Bill 327 are doing nothing but protecting the students. Avoiding the discussion about racism in the classroom sends the wrong message to the children that racism is not an issue worth discussing. As these bills continue to gain momentum, it is imperative that we fight against legislation that will deprive children of a true understanding of their nation’s history of racism.