Anti-CRT Legislation at Fever Pitch in StatesBreaking News
tags: Florida, culture war, teaching history, critical race theory, Ron DeSantis
Bills introduced in state legislatures across the country have increasingly taken aim at higher education and the discussion of race, racism, and gender in college classrooms and programs.
That’s according to new data from PEN America, an advocacy group for free expression, which began tracking all such bills, including those aimed at K-12, in January 2021. So far, 70 bills — which PEN America calls “educational gag orders” — have been introduced in 28 states, with 56 more coming in 2022. The upswing signals an increased effort by lawmakers in those states to limit the discussion of certain topics on campuses, according to the group.
Over all, 42 percent of these legislative proposals have targeted higher ed in 2022, up from 26 percent last year. Most of them have been introduced by Republicans who are concerned about what they consider to be liberal indoctrination on campuses.
Though the bills come from different statehouses across the U.S., most of them share a similar goal: combating the teaching of critical race theory and other topics that lawmakers have labeled “divisive concepts.”
On Wednesday, PEN America and the American Association of Colleges and Universities, which represents more than 1,000 colleges and is an advocate for liberal-arts education, issued a joint statement to bring attention to the threat these bills pose to higher education.
Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, said that as a free-speech defense organization, PEN America recognizes that “not all threats to free speech are created equal.” The most concerning threats, Nossel said, are those that go directly against the First Amendment.
“Legislation that is dictating what can and cannot be taught in the classroom is really at the top of that pyramid,” she said. Nossel added that the issue transcends politics, and university leaders should speak publicly about how these bills could harm colleges.