The Senate in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho Senate passed a concurrent resolution Wednesday encouraging Idaho schools to teach a full and accurate history of the United States along with the principles of freedom and individual liberty.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 118 says, “divisive content is appearing in school curriculum across the country,” and says the content seeks to disregard U.S. history and its journey to becoming “a pillar of freedom in the world.” The act also references critical race theory, an academic idea about structural racism in legal and government systems, as well as “The 1619 Project,” a series from The New York Times that explored the founding of the United States with a focus on slavery and the Black experience in American history.
To date, Idaho teachers and the Idaho School Board Association have reported neither subject being taught in Idaho schools.
Democrats in the Senate said they could not support the resolution, saying it was unnecessary particularly because it pointed to specific ideas that aren’t being taught in Idaho schools. Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, also questioned how divisive content would be defined, because the resolution does not define it.
Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said the resolution only seeks to avoid blame on the basis of race.
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“We want to talk about our successes and why the United States was so successful. In the last 200 years, we’ve had a 5,000-year leap in human progress, and that’s partially because — mostly because — we had a system of limited government that trusted people, coupled with the free market system, which has lifted most of the world out of poverty,” Thayn said.
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said he doesn’t think any particular teachers in Idaho are teaching critical race theory or the 1619 Project. He read the “First They Came” poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller in reference to the Holocaust as part of his debate.
“This is a poignant poem because of what happened to the Jewish people,” Rice said. “There was a teaching of race guilt that was pushed for a long, long time in the history of Europe. … When it rises its head, that idea raises its head, anywhere in our nation or our world, we should speak out against it. That’s all this does. It says we’re not going to blame people for stuff they didn’t do.”
The resolution passed by a voice vote, with opposition from the Senate’s seven Democrats. It will now head to the House for consideration.
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