Living in Ignorance

By+limiting+what+students+and+teachers+can+cover+in+class%2C+the+misconceptions+of+today+could+become+deeply+entrenched+in+the+minds+of+the+next+generation.

Sonja Woerner

By limiting what students and teachers can cover in class, the misconceptions of today could become deeply entrenched in the minds of the next generation.

Sonja Woerner, Staff Writer

Iowa’s ban on critical race theory (CRT) has begun to affect students’ education. With uncomfortable topics being glossed over in schools across the state, history is destined to repeat itself. We cannot afford to let our youth learn inaccurate truths about their collective pasts.

On June 8, 2021, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds imposed a ban on “divisive concepts” being taught in schools. CRT states that U.S. social institutions contain or have contained systemic racism. It is considered a divisive concept and was referenced, but not directly mentioned. 

The section in the law banning CRT says divisive concepts include suggesting “the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist.” 

One example of CRT is the concept of redlining. It is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the illegal practice of refusing to offer credit or insurance in a particular community on a discriminatory basis.” Redlining is something that occurs blatantly and often and is no longer allowed to be taught in Iowa schools.

A Des Moines Register poll showed that 56% of Iowans opposed the law, 34% were in favor and 10% were undecided. Over half of Democrats and Independent voters opposed the ban. This left Republicans as the only political party in majority support, at 57% approval.

History teachers across the state were outraged. The ban on CRT stopped the teaching of concepts surrounding racism. It ended necessary conversations between teachers and students about racial inequities.

“Good teachers have their students look at things from different points of view,” Michelle Frye, Kennedy African American Humanities teacher, said. “I believe it’s educational malpractice to not expose kids to different things. Getting kids to think and challenging their views is what we’re supposed to do and I don’t understand why we shouldn’t be doing that.”

Discussion of critical race theory is restricted or banned in more than 20 states. (Sonja Woerner)

Iowa is taking a step backward. Its progression and freedoms of speech are regressing. Limiting what students are allowed to learn perpetuates ignorance. It’s preventing the progression of society and limiting our perception of reality to a sad, misguided fantasy.

“Iowa used to be so progressive in terms of education and idea generation,” Frye said. “To censor me and the kids and what we can talk about is just ridiculous. People are skewing issues to divert our attention from our actual problems as an educational system.”

Teaching white privilege is also something this law prohibits. Teachers are no longer allowed to talk about privilege, or even say it exists. The law prohibits stating that people are inherently oppressive due to their race, whether consciously or unconsciously. By using this language, the law outlaws conversations surrounding privilege.

“Understanding our identity helps us understand perspective and point-of-view,” Melissa Marzen, social studies teacher at Linn-Mar High School, said. “This helps build empathy and understanding. It’s okay to know that your identity may have impacted your position in life. That’s how we grow as individuals.”

Younger generations will continue to lose out on necessary knowledge and experiences. Topics banned by the law will become another lost piece of history.

Teachers and students must stand up against unjust laws and make a change. We must make the people around us aware of what we are losing. We can’t discuss what we don’t know, and this law prevents us from starting the conversation.

 As Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.”