Posted on February 12, 2021

New Rules Make N.C. Schools Discuss Racism

Marisa Iati, Washington Post, February 5, 2021

North Carolina’s state school board on Thursday approved new standards requiring social studies teachers to discuss racism, while some board members slammed the move as “anti-American” in one of many fights playing out across the country about how schools teach history.

The state Board of Education voted 7 to 5 to pass the standards for K-12 schools after months of negotiations over the framing of the policy meant to promote a more inclusive curriculum that acknowledges the experiences of marginalized students.


Several members of the school board have criticized those guidelines as falling within an “anti-democratic” and “anti-capitalist” framework that overemphasizes the nation’s sins in comparison to its victories. Board member Todd Chasteen said lessons about discrimination against minorities should be accompanied by discussions of the dangers of “destructive” forms of government, including fascism and communism.

“Discrimination and oppression must be covered, and it will be,” he said at the meeting. “Yet the last thing I want to do is mislead students to think the U.S. is hopelessly bigoted, irredeemable and much worse than most nations — unless that were true, but I don’t believe it is.”

The last round of controversy over the guidelines centered on a debate about whether they should refer to “gender identity” and call racism and discrimination “systemic.” After officials removed the words “systemic” and “gender,” two board members on Thursday advocated unsuccessfully for restoring them.

Under the new standards, set to take effect in the fall, students will learn about how people have “demonstrated resistance and resilience to inequities, injustice, and discrimination” in the United States and compare competing historical narratives in the context of how they depict different racial groups, women and others.


Some North Carolina school board members pointed to that cultural context to support their argument that the new social studies standards promote an anti-American understanding of the past. The concepts outlined in the guidelines come from a “very radical ideology” that the U.S. is a fundamentally racist nation, board member Amy White said at the Wednesday meeting.

Other members said the standards should put more emphasis on the progress that the nation has made in advancing beyond the Jim Crow era.

Board member James Ford rejected the assertion that anything short of “unquestioning adoration” for the U.S. is unpatriotic.

“The flawless, exceptionalist characterization of our country is well-represented in our education,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting. “The necessity of making an effort to teach unpopular history is self-evident.”

In North Carolina, that disfavored history includes two centuries of slavery, a significant contribution of troops to the Confederacy and several notable battles in the state toward the end of the Civil War. {snip}