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ND's Intersection of CRT Ban and Black History Month


Tuesday, February 8, 2022   

During Black History Month, North Dakota teachers highlight the work of iconic figures, like Martin Luther King, Jr. But the state is also one of several now banning curriculum related to Critical Race Theory, prompting broader concerns among educators.

Last fall, North Dakota joined the movement of conservative-led states in banning teaching about the lasting effects of systemic racism. State education officials noted it does not limit this month's teachings, and standards cover issues like social responses to inequality.

Nick Archuleta, president of the educator union North Dakota United, has confidence in the standards, but thinks the law is not necessary.

"Everybody should be in favor of teaching the truth about American history," Archuleta asserted. "And if that involves teaching something that doesn't put us in a flattering light, so be it. It's still history, and it's still the truth."

Opponents also noted the concept of Critical Race Theory was designed for college classrooms, and policy analysts worry the way some laws are written, they could lead to further restrictions on teaching about racism. A spokesperson for North Dakota's Department of Public Instruction said the state's law is straightforward, and districts have freedom to adapt their curriculum.

But Archuleta countered the laws puts more pressure on teachers to make sure they are not violating any new rules when talking about Black History Month or long-standing racial issues. He pointed to a new survey from the union, showing North Dakota teachers are already fed up with politics conflicting with education.

"Teachers didn't sign up to become a political football," Archuleta emphasized. "They came because they have a sincere desire to do what's right by the children in their charge."

In the survey, 53% of the educators who responded said they feel at least "some pressure" from politicians and parents to teach a certain way to be "less controversial." Three-quarters said political discourse would play a role in their decision on whether to leave the profession, and 44% of the respondents are considering a change of professions now.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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