South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signs '1776 pledge' to ban critical race theory in schools

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South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has boasted of signing the ‘1776 pledge’ that opposes the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools, as the debate over the ideology deepens across the nation.

‘Teaching our children & grandchildren to hate their own country & pitting them against one another on the basis of race or sex is shameful & must be stopped,’ Noem tweeted on Monday.

The Republican added: ‘I’m proud to be the 1st candidate in America to sign ‘The 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools.”

Noem is widely considered to be eyeing the 2024 presidential race, but she insisted to local news outlets that ‘candidate’ referred to her campaign for re-election as governor next year.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has boasted of signing the '1776 pledge' that opposes the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has boasted of signing the ‘1776 pledge’ that opposes the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools

It comes amid a national debate over CRT, a theoretical framework which views society as dominated by white supremacy, and which critics say reduces people to the categories of ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressed’ based on their skin color. 

Defenders argue CRT merely examines the ways in which race and racism influence American politics, culture and the law, and say it is vital to eliminating racism.  

The 1776 Pledge was launched as an attempt to counter the 1619 Project, which posits the true founding of America in 1619, when the first African slaves arrived, rather than 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Noem argued that the 1776 Pledge asserts the ‘truth’ about America’s history, ‘that we are fighting for freedom, not based on slavery.’

‘Critical race theory is not appropriate for our kids to learn, and to have in our school systems,’ Noem said in an interview with Fox News. 

‘We want our honest history, our real history, our patriotic history to be taught to our kids so that we can continue to protect America,’ she added. ‘It’s the most special country in the world, and it’s something that our kids deserve to have long into the future that we had the opportunity to grow up in.’

Noem argued that the 1776 Pledge asserts the 'truth' about America's history, 'that we are fighting for freedom, not based on slavery'

Noem argued that the 1776 Pledge asserts the ‘truth’ about America’s history, ‘that we are fighting for freedom, not based on slavery’

Meanwhile in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton, also a Republican, spoke out in praise of voters in a suburb of Dallas who voted overwhelmingly in favor of school board candidates opposed to CRT. 

In Saturday’s election in Southlake, candidates opposed to the new curriculum won the two open seats on the Carroll Independent School District board in a landslide, with nearly 70 percent of the vote. 

‘I’m really grateful for these parents, I hope more people will speak out. That’s the only way we will save our country, the only way we’ll save our kids,’ Paxton told Newsmax in reaction to the vote. 

‘It’s encouraging that parents are getting involved like this and they care about issues just like this, that they want race to be treated with respect instead of disdain like the Democratic Party has pushed us to,’ he said. 

‘Instead of dividing us, it should be something that makes us realize that while we all have different backgrounds, there’s a reason that we’re all here, and God created all of us and that matters,’ added Paxton, who has been under indictment since 2015 on securities fraud charges, which he denies and calls politically motivated.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also a Republican, spoke out in praise of voters in a suburb of Dallas who voted overwhelmingly in favor of school board candidates opposed to CRT

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also a Republican, spoke out in praise of voters in a suburb of Dallas who voted overwhelmingly in favor of school board candidates opposed to CRT

Republican state lawmakers in a number of states, including Texas, are pushing bills that would ban teaching CRT in public school classrooms.

The Texas legislation would go even further by discouraging Texas students from discussing current events or controversial public policy issues. 

Last week, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 2202, which bans teaching that ‘one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex’ or that ‘an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.’

The state House is due to consider a parallel bill, HB 3979, as soon as this week. 

Teachers’ organizations oppose the bills, which they say are too vague and would muzzle teachers from discussing critical race theory.

‘The language in the bill about what may be considered controversial is broad, and determining if a teacher has violated this part of the statute is subjective,’ teacher’s union Texas AFT said in a statement.

‘For example, educators could be subject to disciplinary action if they discuss concepts such as implicit bias or critical race theory, which has been held up as a model best practice in the field,’ the teacher’s union added.

In recent months, legislators in Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have all put forward bills opposing critical race theory.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House of Representatives advanced a bill that would ban teachers from discussing controversial issues in schools unless teachers give equal weight to divisive topics. Violations would result in $5,000 fines. 

Republican state Rep. Michelle Udall, who chairs the House Education Committee, dismissed arguments that the bill seeks to ban conversations on racism.

‘We cannot allow children in our public schools to be taught that their skin color or ethnicity or sex somehow determines their character or actions. No forms of racism should be allowed to enter our classrooms,’ Udall said. ‘Biased teaching needs to be stopped.’

Chris Kotterman with the Arizona School Board Association opposed the bill, arguing the bill’s language is too vague and create continuous arguments over what is appropriate to teach and what is not appropriate.

‘The foundational argument is that there is some movement that teaches students, white students specifically, that they need to feel bad about the past sins of the country. That’s trash. There’s no one with any creditability that’s teaching that to students,’ Kotterman said. 

What is the ‘1776 Pledge’?

The ‘1776 Pledge’ was launched by conservative as an attempt to counter the 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project proposes that America was truly founded in 1619, when the first African slaves arrived, rather than 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. 

The 1776 pledge, as seen on the group’s website 1776action.org, reads: 

As a citizen, I believe that…

  • The United States of America is an exceptional nation.
  • Our children and grandchildren should be taught to take pride in their country, to respect our founding principles of liberty and equality, and to have a sense of American history that is both truthful and inspiring.
  • Our Founding Fathers – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – as well as leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. were among the greatest Americans to ever live, and they deserve to be honored as heroes.
  • Young people should be taught to view one another not according to race or gender, but as individuals made in the image of God.
  • Teaching children to hate their country and each other is immoral and deeply harmful to our society.
  • The path to national unity is to restore truthful, patriotic education in our schools that cultivates in our children a profound love for their country.

THEREFORE, I PLEDGE to help replace elected officials, school board members, education commissioners, principals, deans, and university presidents who promote a false, divisive, and radical view of America and our fellow citizens with new leaders who respect our history, our values, our rights, and the God-given dignity of every person.

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