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Fact Check: Does the Tennessee Education Bill Ban Discussing Racism? 

Claim: Teachers in Tennessee will no longer be able to discuss slavery and racism in the classroom after bill HB1376 passes.

Our Rating: This claim rates as false. The Tennessee House bill targets the teaching of White privilege and systemic bias in 2023. It does not ban teaching about slavery or that racism was part of America’s past.

The bill which passed the Tennessee House bans certain divisive concepts to be taught in state colleges, such as “white privilege” or the idea that one gender or race is inherently inferior or bears guilt.  

Students and faculty are allowed to report infractions of the law.  Some find this unnerving, but how else are the authorities supposed to learn about a teacher or professor who has run afoul of the law? 

“Come at me” is not exactly a phrase one would expect from a learned professor.

The bill passed 68 to 26 and is expected to be signed by Governor Bill Lee. 

One critic of the bill, a professor named Learotha Williams Jr, gave a surprsingly illiterate statement in response: 

“If the state comes at me or my beloved university comes at me, and I would have to do it this way versus that way than they are infringing on academic freedom.”

“Come at me” is not exactly a phrase one would expect from a learned professor.  She continued: 

“I leave it up to the students to conclude whatever conclusions that they want to draw.”

Um, well put, professor.  

The bill itself tells a different story.  HB 1376 Tennessee Higher Education Freedom of Expression Act calls for greater transparency in what is taught on Tennessee college campuses.  It asks professors and colleges to make syllabi and lectures available to the public. 

In fact, the bill is a pro-1st amendment, freedom of speech bill. For example, it seeks to ameliorate the problem of guest speakers who are shouted down and denied access to speaking at colleges: 

“(B) Based upon a guest speaker's or a guest speaker's student sponsoring group's viewpoint, race, creed, color, religion, non-violent political ideology, or non-violent political party affiliation…”

It is ironic that the bill is being framed as an attack on free speech, seeing as that the bill itself is an attempt to restore free speech: 

“Freedom of expression and inquiry at public institutions of higher education are indispensable to the pursuit of educational excellence...” 

The bill also seeks to champion “intellectual diversity.” Essentially, the Tennessee education bill is attempting to balance out liberals’ doctrinaire approach to college education.  The bill further states that students cannot be compelled to embrace “divisive concepts.”  

In 2021, Governor Lee signed a similar bill that outlawed critical race theory in public schools.  The bill prohibited teaching the following concepts:  

“...that one race bears responsibility for past actions against another; the United States is fundamentally racist; and a person is inherently privileged or oppressive due to their race.”
Action News 5 describes the bill

Notice that they insert their editorial opinion by putting “divisive” in scare quotes. 

Clearly what is being targeted in the bill are the dubious concepts of White privilege, critical race theory, and systemic racism.   It’s one thing to describe the racism in the past.  That is obviously still allowed in classrooms, despite claims to the contrary from the left.  What is not allowed is to speculate that in 2023, all inequalities are due to racism (in effect, blaming White people for all social ills). After all, this is merely an opinion. It would be unethical to compel students to agree to this opinion.

 

Jones favors teaching “white privilege”

According to Rep Justin Jones, famous for disrupting the Tennessee House session with a bullhorn, the bill feeds into “this racist narrative.”  He histrionically claimed that “this sounds like fascism, this sounds like authoritarianism.”  Of course, Democrat rep Justin Pearson had similar criticisms.  These are the two who were recently expelled and then reinstated in the Tennessee House.  

Conclusion

The racial situation nowadays is much more complex than it was 250 years ago. We don’t agree on how to characterize racial issues today. Therefore, some states have taken it upon themselves to ensure that schools are not teaching an exclusively leftist perspective. This is why leftists are upset.

Liberals and some who represent aggrieved minority constituencies are unaware that their perspective on race is just that–their perspective. They want to influence education to suit their grievances. Guess what? Conservatives and normal families with kids don’t necessarily agree with them and they also want to influence education.

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