By State Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern
As a state representative and a former teacher, I’m sickened by politicians pushing false narratives about what is and isn’t being taught in our public schools. I’m tired of politicians lying that educators are indoctrinating kids to be less patriotic. I’m disheartened by the disrespect shown to my brothers and sisters in labor vilified for teaching our nation’s sometimes disappointing history.
Fueled by extremist conservative media — the same cohort who pushed the Big Lie and downplayed a virus that has killed over 600,000 Americans, elected officials across Missouri and in this country have a new right-wing boogeyman: critical race theory.
Until recently, CRT was most likely to be found in law school classes to examine the intersection between American institutions, law and race. That’s it. It’s graduate-level, advanced subject matter, and it isn’t even taught in our K-12 public schools. I certainly never saw it when I was an educator.
However, I’m sure after many late nights of strategizing how to divide our country and add more fuel to the culture war fires, the same people who have insisted President Joe Biden was not fairly elected — despite all evidence to the contrary — have now decided that Marxist socialists have infiltrated our public schools. It would be laughable, if it weren’t so censorious.
Despite CRT’s non-existence in our schools, one-sided town halls and kangaroo court-style hearings are being held across Missouri and in Jefferson City to ban it. Some legislators are going further and pushing for bans on other curricula, like teaching any component of the 1619 Project, which seeks to examine history through the lens of first enslaved Africans who arrived in what would become the United States.
Perhaps most alarming of all are the calls to censor curricula that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion. Teaching through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion means kids of all backgrounds can see their own humanity reflected in their education. It means students learn to treat people more humanely and work together with those who are different from themselves. Union members know better than anyone the strength that comes from working together with people of different backgrounds.
Meanwhile, this unwarranted fear consumes time and energy that could be used to support real education reform that would actually improve public schools across our state. Missouri ranks 49th in America in state funding for public schools and starting teacher pay. If we want our schools to do better, we can start there.
So, let’s not become distracted by these scare sessions. How do we build stronger communities and continue to build a more perfect union? We continue to support our public schools and work to ensure that they are constantly improving to support the needs of each and every student. We allow schools and teachers control over the tools they have to teach.
Because it’s educators — not some right-wing think tank in D.C. — who are experts in the classroom.
Representative Maggie Nurrenbern, a Democrat, represents Clay County (District 15) in the Missouri House of Representatives. She was elected to her first two-year term in November 2020. Prior to her legislative duties, Nurrenbern taught at North Kansas City High School and at University Academy. She is a lifelong resident of Clay County, graduating from Smithville High School in 2002. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication – Journalism from Truman State University and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from UMKC.