Critical race theory fell into the crosshairs of Jeff Colyer, the former Kansas governor who is vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Former Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a pledge Thursday to oppose the teaching of critical race theory in Kansas schools, matching the move made by his GOP rival earlier this week.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt signed the pledge on Monday. Both are seeking their party’s nomination for governor in next year’s race against incumbent Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
Critical race theory, which surfaced in law schools during the 1970s and 1980s, examines how racism is embedded in many U.S. policies and institutions. In recent months, it has gained notoriety as Republicans have used the term to rally against teaching about racism and offering anti-racism training in government workplaces.
Colyer said instead of focusing on such divisive lesson plans, schools and educators should focus on restoring “patriotic education” policies. Exploring critical race theory would only lead to young children hating the United States, he said.
“We need to teach exceptionalism and the special place that America is,” Colyer said. “We do have a complicated history and we do address those issues of racism, but America is a special place.”
Critical race theory is not part of the state’s K-12 curriculum.
Colyer was joined by state representatives and school board candidates in signing the 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools, a declaration asking candidates for office to vow to support education that “cultivates in our children a profound love for our country.” The pledge is meant as a sort of litmus test for aspiring lawmakers, according to Adam Waldeck, the creator of the initiative.
The campaign event followed Schmidt’s signing of the pledge on Monday, with support from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“I appreciate Attorney General Schmidt’s long-standing leadership for honest civics education, which continues today as he makes this commitment to Kansas voters,” Gingrich said. “Across the country, a rapidly growing and parent-led movement is fighting back against radical K-12 curricula that slanders our history and undermines our nation’s fundamental value of equality under the law.”
Schmidt in May joined with attorneys general in 19 other states to refute critical race theory as “a radical new curriculum” that should not be taught in classrooms.
Educators across the country are facing pressure from GOP politicians to amend how the country’s history is taught. In states like Iowa and Oklahoma, legislators have prohibited schools from teaching concepts that may cause “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
In Kansas, the six state universities under the board of regents have been asked to gather information on whether critical race theory is taught at these institutions. Kathleen Garrison, who ran for the Sedgwick County commission in 2020, said this type of education would not foster patriotism.
“Do you really want the next generations, apologizing for who we are,” she said. “We can’t let this country that we love so much to just die and dissipate on our time.”
Rep. Patrick Penn, R-Wichita, and Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, also signed the pledge.
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