Proposed legislation lowers teacher certification requirements, puts into law foundationally adversarial language

The title of a bill introduced by Sen. Mary Kunesh (39, DFL) is a worthy goal that the state has been pursuing and should continue pursuing: increasing teachers of color.

Unfortunately, to achieve this goal S.F. 619 language lowers teacher certification requirements. Additionally, the bill puts into law foundationally adversarial language and mandates an ethnic studies curriculum that emphasizes a class- and race-warfare model as opposed to a traditional model that would emphasize ethnic and cultural understanding.

Removes requirement to pass teacher licensure exams

There is great agreement that recruiting, employing and retaining teachers of color in Minnesota is a goal worth pursuing. But neither students nor teachers themselves will benefit if teacher certification requirements are watered down to achieve that goal.

S.F. 619 would not require teacher candidates who complete a teacher preparation program to pass the Minnesota teacher licensure examinations. Teacher candidates who completed a teacher prep program at an HBCU (historically black college and university) would also not have to pass the state’s required licensure exams.

While teacher preparation programs do include in-course assessments, coursework, and field experiences, not all programs require candidates to take courses on topics they are expected to teach. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which testified against the test removal provisions, a licensure test offers a final check on this knowledge and content.

Critical Race Theory-derived terms

Under S.F. 619, foundationally adversarial words including “antiracist,” “culturally sustaining,” and “institutional racism” would be put into law.

These are defined as:

Antiracist” means actively working to identify and eliminate racism in all forms so that power and resources are redistributed and shared equitably among racial groups.

Efforts to identify and eliminate racism are a must to move us forward as a society. There is concern, though, over the roots of the term “antiracist.” Ibram X. Kendi, often credited with coining the term antiracist, wrote in his book How to Be an Antiracist, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Inviting in this cycle of retaliatory discrimination is concerning.

“Culturally sustaining” means integrating content and practices that infuse the culture and language of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities who have been and continue to be harmed and erased through schooling.

Ending this definition after the word “communities” would remove the adversarial language that follows, but even then it is unclear which cultures within the named racial groups would be sustained.

“Institutional racism” means structures, policies, and practices within and across institutions that produce outcomes that chronically favor white people and disadvantage those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Institutional racism is a key assertion of Critical Race Theory. CRT “is an academic discipline founded by law professors who used Marxist analysis to conclude that racial dominance by whites created ‘systemic racism,'” writes The Heritage Foundation. Given that grant money is provided in S.F. 619 to address institutional racism with equitable school policies, legislators should identify what specific racist policies are currently in Minnesota schools that need to be changed. Is there data and research to support that these policies are the cause of the undesirable outcomes?

Language in S.F. 619 on funding racial affinity groups — a form of neo-segregation — across schools is also concerning.

Class- and race-warfare model

S.F. 619’s mandate for an ethnic studies curriculum is not an innocent study of cultures, their histories, and artistic, literary, economic and social achievements; it is a highly politicized course founded on themes of systems of power and oppression, white supremacy, patriarchy, colonialism, and implicit bias, to name a few.

The goal with ethnic studies is not to improve academic outcomes in core subject areas in our state’s K-12 public schools. On the contrary, Minnesota’s public education system is deemed a “white supremacist puzzle that must be taken apart and exposed for the lie it is,” according to Jonathan Hamilton of Education for Liberation Minnesota and a member of the Minnesota Department of Education’s social studies standards revision committee. Ethnic studies is the weapon of choice in taking our schools apart, as my colleague Kathy Kersten describes here.

Students should absolutely be taught to come together and appreciate and understand differences, but this version of ethnic studies is not about this. Instead, it is a political manifesto that will reshape our children’s identity and worldviews.