July 31, 2021

Dale Butland: White children should not be shielded from learning of ‘darker chapters in the American story’

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Dale Butland was the press secretary and chief of staff for the late Ohio Senator John Glenn. This op-ed appeared in the Columbus Dispatch. In it, he looks at the problems of GOP anti-critical race theory legislation.

Ironically, most anti-Critical Race Theory legislation, including Ohio House Bill 327, is so ham-handed, vague and sloppily worded that it would not only invite an avalanche of lawsuits but also lead to pedagogical consequences completely opposite of what the authors intend.

The text of the Ohio bill, for example, explicitly mandates “impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity or religion.”

But how would an Ohio teacher discuss slavery or the Holocaust impartially?

By definition, impartiality presupposes at least two legitimate opposing arguments.  Are there two legitimate “sides” to the issue of slavery or the murder of 6 million Jews?

And if a teacher were to denounce slavery and the Holocaust as moral abominations, what would stop a parent holding white supremacist or anti-Semitic views from suing the school district for failing to “instruct impartially” on these “historical oppressions?”

As for unintended consequences, among HB 327’s proscribed “divisive concepts” is that “one nationality….is inherently superior to another nationality.”

But isn’t that precisely what “American exceptionalism” postulates — the idea that the United States is inherently different from and superior to other nations?

Surely former President Donald Trump would not be happy to learn that his acolytes are sponsoring a bill which inadvertently forbids one of his favorite doctrines from being taught in Ohio schools.

Though House Bill 327 proponents say their target is the notion of “collective guilt” and their aim is to protect white children from feeling personally responsible for historic wrongs they had nothing to do with, it’s hard to see their legislation as anything other than a politically motivated and censorious attempt to prevent an honest discussion about race in our schools.

But we’ll never build a more perfect union by white-washing our history, pretending our problems don’t exist, or prohibiting the teaching of “controversial” subjects simply because they make us feel uncomfortable.

If there’s one history lesson we should all have learned by now, it is that change is rarely initiated by those who feel comfortable with the status quo.

Read the full op-ed here.

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