Opinion | Public education should be candid

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law banning divisive concepts in curriculum, but public schools should be able to teach candidly.


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Gov. Kim Reynolds prepares for the State of the State Address within the house chambers of the Iowa State Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Des Moines. Tuesday marks the second day of the 2021 Iowa legislative session, in which Gov. Reynolds will give her address in the evening.

Sophia Meador, Opinions Columnist

Looking back on your K-12 education, were you taught to judge others based on race, gender, or sexual identity? Yeah, me neither.

While many public schools teach little about racism, sexism and homophobia in the U.S,  Gov. Kim Reynolds believes “divisive concepts” such as critical race theory in curriculum and mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training encourages negative labels and stereotypes.

“Critical Race Theory is about labels and stereotypes, not education. It teaches kids that we should judge others based on race, gender or sexual identity, rather than the content of someone’s character,” Reynolds said in a statement.

With the recent passage of this law (HF 802), teaching “divisive concepts” will be prohibited in K-12 and higher education, school curricula, and mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training. This law prohibits teaching the idea that:

  • The United States and Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.
  • An individual race or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.
  • Traits like hard work ethic are racist or sexist.

Despite Reynolds’ beliefs, this law will not end negative labeling and stereotypes; it will further encourage arrogance and the dismissal of critical issues of race and gender in the U.S.

Schools should teach candidly and objectively. Iowa should not restrict education on “divisive concepts”. Rather, school curriculum should discuss theories and ways of thinking of race and gender. Students should be encouraged to explore the backbones of inequality in the U.S and start thinking of ways to improve such inequalities.

Critical race theory examines social, cultural, and legal issues related to race in the U.S, and how systematic patterns have led to suppression and inequalities. Critics often argue this theory is meant to undermine the character of white people.

However, in an article from The Daily Iowan, Venise Berry, University of Iowa African American Studies department chair said the theory is about understanding the experience and environment we live in, rather than placing blame on white people for fueling systemic racism.

As it stands, Iowa is over 90 percent white, the seventh whitest state in the country. The lack of diversity does not teach culture beyond the classroom because students don’t see the impacts of race. For students in Iowa to leave the classroom and go into the world as enlightened adults, it is imperative we teach them about the racial and gender inequality that continues in the U.S.

In reality, social issues regarding race and gender will not cease just because Iowa schools will stop talking about it. The massive rise of movements such as Black Lives Matter, Women’s March and #MeToo, Dreamers, and voting rights demonstrate just how omnipresent inequality of race and gender is in the U.S. Students should understand the meaning behind these prevalent social issues.

Prohibiting education on ideas of race and gender will not end prejudice. In fact, it will do the opposite as students will have less of an understanding of the substance behind the given labels and stereotypes.

Iowa should not restrict conversations of “divisive concepts”, but rather encourage this education so Iowans gain a better understanding of one another. While we don’t have to agree on all concepts of race, gender and sex, we all deserve candid and objective education on these crucial subjects.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.