This past Friday, high school students from around Georgia gathered at the Georgia State capitol to protest the passage on Senate Bill 377. The bill, which aims to curb the teaching of divisive topics in class, has been touted by its Republican backers as a necessary step to control the teaching of topics harmful to students, and to ensure that the controversial Critical Race Theory isn’t taught in classes. The bill also prohibits teaching that the United States is, “fundamentally or systematically racist,” as well as that any people are “inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
Democratic opponents, as well as the students gathered in the capitol last Friday, decry the bill as an attempt to whitewash history and prevent students from learning from society’s past mistakes.
In a prepared speech, Ana Villavasso, a Decatur High School senior and one of the organizers of the event, stated, “Let those representatives know that their place is not in a classroom, especially if they’re not educators.”
The senior went on to speak against the bill, advocating for a more hands off approach to teaching, and allowing for teachers to have more control over how and what they teach to students. “We need American history. It’s the history of people of color — not only Black history but all people of color,” Villavasso said.
Republicans have criticized the opposition to this bill, citing it as necessary to ensure students don’t feel discomfort when discussing race or the impact it has played nation throughout history. This has fallen on deaf ears for many on the opposing side however, as many see this wording as too vague, allowing for ambiguities in interpretation and a much broader suppression of the teaching of race than Republicans currently espouse.
The battle over the teaching of race and Critical Race Theory, a graduate level concept that examines the cross section of race and law in the United States and is typically not to taught in K-12 schools, is not local to Georgia, with many Republicans across the nation using it to galvanize their voter base and unite around resistance to it.
The fight is far from over, with both local and national chapters of both parties working hard to push their respective legislative agendas.
The emergence of high school and college aged people protesting has increased in recent years though, with this particular age group overwhelmingly favoring the democratic party and its platforms, making them a crucial group for the democrats to have turnout in support of their agenda in elections.
Vinessa Taylor, a 17 year old senior from Decatur High School, alluded to this fact in her speech at the protest, stating, “Did you know that at 17-and-a-half you can register to vote … If they do not listen to us now, they will hear us in November.”
The bill is unlikely to pass through the state legislature, but does reflect yet another instance of bipartisan divide over not only current policies, but the institutions that will educate the future citizens of our nation and inform their future decisions. The debate, as a result, is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.