The Future of Education: Prohibitions on-Teaching “Divisive Concepts” in the Classroom

UToledo TSOC3000 students to host a town hall event in response to House Bills 322 and 327

(Originally published in The Sojourner’s Truth on December 2, 2021. Reprinted with permission.)

By Terri Draper and Owen Gwyn,
Students, Judith Herb College of Education, University of Toledo

In a time when many are confused by or unaware of the legal events taking place at our state capital, UToledo education students seek to inform the public of actions affecting the future of education for Ohio students and educators. They will host a town hall, open to the public attending in person or virtually, on December 8, 2021 from 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.  

At the heart of the discussion are House Bills 322 and 327 that prohibit school districts, community schools, STEM schools, and state agencies from teaching, advocating, or promoting “divisive concepts” which include but are not limited to race, nationality, sex, and ethnicity. 

As future educators, students who are planning the meeting are particularly concerned about the lack of definition of “divisive concepts” and the indication that teaching accurate and inclusive history will be at risk. They have wondered if textbooks would be thrown out and who would pay for replacing them. 

Students have also been impressed that the penalties for teaching “divisive concepts” include revocation of teaching licenses, for individual teachers involved, and cutting up to 100 percent funding for schools in which “divisive concepts” are taught.

“From middle school to college, I appreciated class discussions that allowed for honest conversation surrounding race, nationality, sex and gender, and ethnicity. This was especially true for a humanities class that I took as a senior in high school. My biggest fear is that these house bills will change the way that future conversations will be conducted. Teachers may be fearful of hosting these discussions due to serious repercussions if they are reported for ignoring the laws that come with the house bills. Current education students are still developing their lessons, teaching styles, and philosophy of education. They may have to change fundamental aspects of their pedagogy before it has been solidified. The house bills do a disservice to current and future educators in my opinion,” stated Terri Draper.

While the town hall is about Ohio house bills only, there have been many other states, including Michigan, taking similar actions to make adjustments in the form of laws. According to a current issue of Education Week, “As of November 9, 28 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis. Twelve states have enacted these bans, either through legislation or other avenues” (see https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/map-where-critical-race-theory-is-under-attack/2021/06).

Led by students in one of the TSOC 3000: School and Democratic Society classes, the December 8 town hall is an educational event intended to notify the general public of the potential passing of these House Bills which can change the school curriculum for students in the future. 

Supporters for the bill and those against it will have equal opportunities to speak, and the cutoff time for each speaker is two minutes. Confirmed featured speakers for this event include a UToledo student, a teachers union representative, elected officials and others.  All in attendance are invited to attend and participate in the discussion. 

The class especially encourages educators, parents of students, students, and school officials to attend. The event has been planned entirely by students and is sponsored by the Department of Educational Studies in the Judith Herb College of Education.

The town hall is free and open to the public, and is to be held in the Health and Human Services (HH) Building, Room 1600, on the University of Toledo main campus on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 from 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Free parking is available in lots 1N and 1 S only, for the duration of the meeting. See map at https://www.utoledo.edu/campus/directions/pdfs/Main-Campus-Map.pdf .

The public may also attend virtually. Pre-registration is required. Please go to https://utoledo.webex.com/utoledo/j.php?RGID=r467cc0b83c0b6747d37773ada35a5c03 to register and receive an invitation to join the meeting.

Questions can be emailed to the students at housebilltownhall@gmail.com