Race education bill could change way Michigan students learn about American history

“History forgotten is history repeated”
Race education bill could change way Michigan students learn about American history
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A controversial bill restricting how racial and gender issues can be taught in Michigan’s schools could soon be headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Supporters said the bill is meant to protect kids from being attacked for their race or gender, but critics claim it’s an attempt to re-write history.

Critics claim the Chairwoman of the Education Committee could be focusing on much more important issues.

“She could call and have hearings about the teacher shortage. about reducing classroom sizes, about equitable school funding, any number of things that teachers, students, and parents think are important,” said Sen. Dayna Polehanki.

House Bill 5097 restricts what can be taught about race and gender, and bans any stereotyping based on race and gender in Michigan schools.

“What I refer to as happy history bills that have been introduced by Republicans that are basically White legislators telling Black people that the United states is post-racial,” said Polehanki said.

But supporters said that’s not their goal, they want to teach history accurately.

“The good, the bad, and the ugly. But learning about it in the most accurate way possible,” said Rep. Andrew Beeler. “We don’t think that putting students into these groups and treating them like a group instead of treating them like an individual is good. We’re much more in favor of an education system that focuses in on the individuals.”

They said it’s not right to make individuals feel guilty for things like slavery or the Jim Crow era -- but critics aren’t buying it.

“I don’t think they’re being made to feel guilty for it. I think that is something that is manufactured and made up to scare parents,” said Sen. Erika Geiss.

Critics said history needs context -- and that means occasionally bringing up topics that could make someone uncomfortable.

“You can’t talk about why the 19th Amendment was needed, why women needed a right to, and fought [for] the right to vote without talking about why the inherent sexism and women not having the right to vote,” said Geiss.

And you can’t talk about the Civil Rights Movement without talking about segregation, discrimination, racism, and slavery.

A Senate committee approved the bill on Jun 7, 2022. The next step will be a vote of the full Senate -- the House has already passed it.

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