Representative Kevin West of Moore criticizes NEA defense of Critical Race Theory

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, commented earlier this month concerning news that the National Education Association (NEA) vowed to support and promote the use of Critical Race Theory in public school classrooms at its recent annual meeting and representative assembly.

“When we ran legislation to prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Oklahoma public schools, we heard multiple allegations that this wasn’t a problem and this wasn’t being taught in our schools,” West said. 
“Now we see that the largest teachers’ union in the nation, and the parent organization of the largest teachers’ union in the state, is pushing this harmful curriculum. This proves that Oklahoma Republican legislators were prudent to get in front of this issue and stop this increasing push to indoctrinate our children.”

NEA is the parent organization of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), which reports 16,560 active members in the state. OEA members took part in NEA’s recent virtual conference.

West is the author of House Bill 1775, signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt this year. The bill took effect July 1. Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, is the Senate author of the bill.

The measure prohibits Oklahoma public schools, colleges and universities from incorporating certain messages about sex and race into any course instruction and also prohibits state higher education institutions from requiring mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. Voluntary counseling is permitted.

This week (on July 12), the Oklahoma State Board of Education passed rules for implementation of the new law in classroom teaching ( ). With only one dissenting board member, the action begins a process for development of specific guidance to state teachers, to include a ban on racist teaching that any race is superior to another.
The president of the state NEA affiliate – Katherine Bishop of the Oklahoma Education Association – commented on the new rules, saying: “We believe this should clear up some confusion and gives Oklahoma’s educators the confidence to continue teaching as they have been since the standards were adopted. We encourage the involvement of education professionals in the full rule-making process moving forward.” 

Board member Estela Hernandez passionately defended H.B. 1775 and the education agency’s new rules, pointing out the law anticipates coverage of content in state standards, stressing that includes “the dark areas of American history.” 

As for the underlying legislation, as the House legislative staff release pointed out, “House Bill 1775 does not stop the teaching of history or anything currently in Oklahoma education standards, including curriculum that shows historical examples of racism or genocide.” 

Teachers can teach about slavery in America, the Holocaust, the Tulsa Race Riot and other topics. 
Students also can discuss these events and their feelings about them.

According to the House staff press release: 
“Critical Race Theory, however, is based on Marxist ideology that is designed to teach children to hate American exceptionalism and distrust others based on skin color or gender. Additionally it teaches that most laws and systems in America are historically rooted in the racist oppression of marginalized people groups. It promotes the theory of implicit bias and inherent racism due to one’s skin color.”

H.B. 1775 specifically states that no teacher, administrator or other employee of a school district, charter school or virtual charter school shall require or make part of a course the following concepts:

    •  one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,
    •  an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,
    •  an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex,
    •  members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex,
    •  an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex,
    •  an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,
    •  any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex, or
    •  meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.