Thomas Suddes: Ohio legislators don dunce caps once again to meddle in curriculum
Thomas Suddes is a member of the cleveland.com editorial board. He has some thoughts about Ohio’s proposed gag law for teachers.
Having solved all Ohio’s problems, the General Assembly is now trying to rewrite America’s — and Ohio’s — racial history. No, critical race theory isn’t on the table: It evidently isn’t taught in Ohio’s kindergarten-to-12th-grade schools. And few, if any, General Assembly members can define it.
Instead, House Bills 322 and 327 are products of “fire in a crowded theater” radio yowlers and Ohio’s suspicion of fact-based politics (and fact-based schooling).
Among other features, House Bill 322, sponsored by state Rep. Don Jones, a Republican from Harrison County’s Freeport, forbids public schools to teach that “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality,” the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) reports. (Emphasis added.)
Those “authentic founding principles” may not exactly resonate with African American Ohioans: Forty-one or so of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence had owned slaves. About 25 of the 55 delegates who wrote the U.S. Constitution were slave owners. And the Constitution counted slaves as three-fifths of a person; that guaranteed America’s slave states extra clout in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Moreover, of the nation’s “first 12 presidents, the only two never to own slaves were John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams,” Statista reports. And — oh yes — the Ohio Constitution of 1802 forbade Black Ohioans to vote.
As for House Bill 327, it’s sponsored by Reps. Diane Grendell, of Chester Township, and Sarah Fowler Arthur, of Geneva-on-the-Lake, both Greater Cleveland Republicans. Fowler Arthur was formerly a State Board of Education member.
HB 327 forbids the teaching of “divisive” concepts in public schools. It exempts nonpublic schools, “except,” the LSC reports, “that a nonpublic school that participates in a [state] scholarship [voucher] program is prohibited from using state [funds] to promote divisive concepts.” It’ll be interesting to see how many lawsuits that fine line will stoke.