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Education advocacy group speaks out against HB 1775



Note: The following statement is from Citizens United for a Better Educational System (CUBES Tulsa). It has been modified for the length.

TThe ill-conceived Oklahoma State House Bill 1775 and its “rules” prohibit educators from teaching the truths of Oklahoma and US history, the truth of the dominated cultural, political, and economic systems. white men in the United States. These systems have perpetuated racism, sexism, classism and ableism (discrimination of people with disabilities) in America.

By design, this law will revise American and Oklahoma history. The revisions will prevent the internalization of historical truths and facts that serve as life lessons for our children’s moral compass. This void in history will weaken the context required to eradicate historical and current political and economic injustices – to ignore history is to ignore present realities. Such ignorance prevents our children and our communities from creating a future of fairness and equality.

The primary strategy of those who created and succeeded HB 1775 is to stop teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Oklahoma schools. What is CRT? Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a legal, academic, and academic movement of scholars and civil rights activists in the United States who have critically examined the relationship between race, racism, and power. The historic racism rooted in American social institutions (school systems, housing, health care, criminal justice) perpetuates inequalities today. CRT theorists see mainstream education as one of many institutions which, historically and contemporaneously, serve to reproduce unequal power relations and educational outcomes. Schools have played an important role in creating and maintaining racial inequalities.

The authors and sponsors of HB 1775 offered no credible evidence as to why this law would be necessary for a school district, charter school, or virtual charter school in Oklahoma. There was never a public identification of citizens defending or supporting a “1775” law before the creation of the bill.

As Calisha Williams Bradley, a member of the Oklahoma School Board of Education, said in a July 17, 2021 interview with Tulsa World, “… Critical Race Theory… is not taught in education K -12 – We solve a problem that is not present. Even the State Department (of Education) said there had been no complaints about CRT, race, or matters that were uncomfortable to demand this legislation or rules.

There are eight “discriminatory principles” in the law of 1775. One of them prohibits the teaching of course content that would “… any individual … feel discomfort, guilt, ‘anxiety or any other form of psychological distress because of his race or sex’. This mandate concerns authors and sponsors who want to stay in power while appearing to be concerned about the “comfort level” of individuals. Yet they have never taken comprehensive or strategic steps to pass legislation or fund education at the level required for transformational systemic change. A change that would eliminate the “discomfort” and “anxiety” experienced by too many children, especially children of color. These children are feeling the debilitating impact of poverty and hunger. They feel the anguish of the alienating cultures of their schools and neighborhoods. Curriculum and teaching are culturally insensitive and irrelevant. They attended schools which made them “dumb” and demoralized. They are ashamed, alienated by low expectations, prejudices and stereotypes. Our children bear the burden of “guilt” for their chronic school failures. Soon after graduating from high school, many of our children experience the “embarrassment” and “angst” of not being prepared for college, trade school and / or gainful employment. .

The lawmakers who sponsored the 1775 “emergency” law and the governor never expressed (for the public record) any real moral outrage or just outrage about the above generational issues and related obstacles. These problems and obstacles have contributed to the intolerable conditions and outcomes that negatively affect our children. Governor Stitt and Oklahoma state lawmakers have taken no action against the generational negative impact and manifestations of systemic racism, classism, sexism and ableism. In addition, “the discomfort and guilt” is personal. Therefore, paying attention to personal reactions will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a teacher to discern and measure for each child in the class. HB 1775 will be an obstacle to achieving an American and Oklahoma society free from racial and gender discrimination, marginalization and denial of the right to vote. The 1775 law will play a significant role in obstructing, by design, all efforts to institute the systemic actions necessary to ensure political justice, economic justice, and human rights for all Oklahomans.

The punitive consequences of the bill for educators who break the law will cause teachers to guess what they are saying and teaching. Enforcing compliance and punishing non-compliance would hamper teachers’ responsiveness to the unique academic and development needs of their students. Teaching is an art of building relationships and having a “romance” with teaching and love for children. The pressure, stress and constraints of complying with the law will affect teachers’ ability to teach with calm and confidence. This has the potential to force teachers to seek teaching opportunities in private schools, leave the state, or quit the teaching profession. This is something that Oklahoma schools can hardly afford. Applying HB 1775 will force educators to adapt to half-truth mindsets, teaching practices, and irrelevant / unreactive relationships. This will encourage uniform bureaucratic practices, which will have dire consequences for the success, growth and development of our children.

There is no reason, according to section 3, that the law should have been designated as an emergency. There was no rush! By declaring an “emergency,” a formally structured statewide entry never took place. There has been no input or input solicited from principals, teachers, school staff, families, students, community members, community education advocates or community leaders, by design. HB 1775 is a codified “gag order”.

This law is not what our teachers, our children, the Tulsa Public School District, or the state of Oklahoma need to address inequalities and institutional inequalities. Governor Stitt’s desire to see Oklahoma’s education system ranked in the top 10 in the country is just a pipe dream. The law of 1775 is not a law based on the defense of current or historical truths, courageous actions or moral uprightness. The law is based on the fear of sponsors and power brokers of losing their control and influence over the lives, thoughts, and political and economic systems of the people of Oklahoma. It’s a power struggle. The purpose of HB 1775 is to maintain and increase the hold of the majority of right-wing lawmakers and Governor Stitt over our lives, now and in the future!

Darryl F. Bright is the President of CUBES Tulsa