Kemp urges safeguards against teaching on race in Georgia

Gov. Kemp lets teachers, some with health issues get vaccines in Georgia
Gov. Kemp lets teachers, some with health issues get vaccines in Georgia

ATLANTA – With rank-and-file Republicans in arms over fears that their public school students are being indoctrinated that the United States is inherently racist, Gov. Brian Kemp signaled Thursday that he shared their concerns.

Georgia’s Republican governor wrote a letter to the state Board of Education, whose members he appoints, urging them “to take immediate steps to ensure that Critical Race Theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards or curriculum.”

There is little evidence, however, that the state is sanctioning such teaching for any of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students.

Richard Woods, Georgia’s elected Republican state superintendent, said as much in a May 11 Facebook post for his campaign.

“The Georgia Department of Education has no current or proposed standards that include CRT concepts,” Woods wrote. “We will not be adopting any CRT standards nor applying for or accept any funding that requires the adoption of these concepts by our state, schools, or classrooms. We will not provide trainings that seek to promote these teachings to educators and support staff.”

Cody Hall, a spokesperson for Kemp, described Thursday’s letter as “primarily a preventative measure.” While the state sets standards, districts or individual schools set curriculum.

Critical race theory seeks to highlight how historical inequities and racism continue to shape public policy and social conditions today. Republicans say that it promotes a distorted view of American history that teaches that white people are evil.

On Wednesday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, also a Republican, joined a group of other GOP attorneys general demanding that President Joe Biden’s administration abandon plans to prioritize grants for American history and civics that “take into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities, and discriminatory policy and practice in American history.”

With Kemp having officially kicked off his 2022 reelection campaign on Tuesday, the letter is one example of measures he may take to shore up support among Republican voters still restive over claims that Kemp didn’t do enough to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia. It could also help him to appeal to suburban swing voters by painting Democrats as radical and un-American.

GOP activists who Kemp needs to maximize his vote totals are showing up to give school board members an earful, even though most boards aren’t currently taking any action on the subject. On Tuesday, conservative groups turned out in force to berate the Forsyth County school board, saying the all-Republican board, by adopting a diversity, equity and inclusion policy in 2017, had opened the door for subversive teaching.

“This is a Marxist trojan horse disguised with sunshine, rainbows and a bow on top,” Hunter Hill, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, told school board members. “The DEI program is a trojan horse that will bring in a slippery slope …. a slippery slope that will ultimately end in critical race theory (and) white repentance”

Multiple Republican congressional district conventions in Georgia on Saturday passed resolutions opposing the teaching of critical race theory or the 1619 Project, a New York Times Magazine effort to reexamine American history through the lens of slavery and its legacy.