By Jon King /

State Sen. Lana Theis on Thursday introduced legislation that would ban from Michigan K-12 curricula the use of so-called “critical race theory”. It would also prohibit teaching of the 1619 Project, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times project that examines the ongoing consequences of slavery through the lens of American history.

The Brighton Township Republican called critical race theory, “an invention of the extremist political left that has manipulated academia for decades and is now targeting private businesses, public institutions and, sadly, our K-12 classrooms, where it is indoctrinating young minds with anti-American falsehoods.”

Also referred to as CRT, critical race theory is an academic viewpoint that racism has been at the core of American history, shaping its laws and institutions, starting with hundreds of years of human bondage followed by more than a hundred years of Jim Crow segregation. It has been around for decades but has gained prominence in the era of Black Lives Matter protests. However, conservatives have pushed back against that narrative as being anti-white and nearly a dozen GOP-backed bills with similar language to that used by Theis have been introduced nationwide.

Theis, who Chairs the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee, said supporters of the theory “reject our country’s true history and our founding principles, in favor of an identity-based cultural Marxist ideology that seeks…ultimately the destruction of our country and way of life.” She added that it has “no place in public education” and that her bill will “make sure it never will.”

However, not everyone rejects the idea that racism remains an enduring legacy of America’s history. Jessica Garcia is a parent in the Brighton Area Schools district. She is also the Founder and CEO of Hummingbird Solutions, LLC, “a diversity and inclusion consulting firm.” She told WHMI that providing students an objective view of history is not something that should be dismissed out of hand and that doing so actually does a disservice for kids as they head out into the world.“Livingston County is not representative of the rest of the country. Our goal and our hope in moving to an area that has excellent schools is to prepare our children for bright futures and if they grow up in a district that doesn’t acknowledge diversity, doesn’t acknowledge our history, doesn’t work to build inclusive relationships, that’s going to set them back, that’s going to be a deficit for them.”

Theis says the legislation does not seek to “ignore the past sins of our nation, especially things as abhorrent as slavery and Jim Crow,” but claims critical race theory is “distorted and politicized by an ideological and historically inaccurate agenda.”

But Garcia says history is based on factual events and trying to pretend otherwise is counter-productive to gaining a more inclusive understanding of who we are as a nation.“I don’t know how you have a conversation about racism without talking about racism. I don’t know how you have a conversation about slavery or Jim Crow or reservations…I don’t know how you have these conversations without acknowledging the role that race has played in them.”

Theis’ legislation follows executive orders issued last year by former President Donald Trump that called for a ban on diversity training and critical race theory for federal workers. President Joe Biden has since rescinded those orders. Trump took particular aim at the 1619 Project, a project introduced in 2019 to mark the 400th anniversary of slavery being introduced into the Virginia colony. Developed by Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, and published by the New York Times, it aimed, “to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States' national narrative."

Theis also singles out the 1619 Project, calling it an “intentional misrepresentation (that) has been debunked by historians on both the left and the right of the political divide.”

The National Council for the Social Studies criticized the Republican bills, saying an “Aversion to slavery in the social studies curriculum only serves to miseducate students who will carry the mantle of being citizens in our democratic society. Recognizing the origins, evolution, and legacy of slavery is vital to understanding how racial inequality and oppression currently operate in our society.”

Theis believes, however, that schools should be teaching students what she called “the actual history in the context of the time, encourage them to love their country’s unique place in history creating the path for freedom and equality as never before contemplated – while recognizing the flawed implementation. Our children should be taught to defend our founding principles, and to treat each other equally with dignity and respect.”

Senate Bill 460 was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness for consideration.