Wisconsin Republicans passed a bill Tuesday to create a mandatory statewide civics curriculum to be taught in all Wisconsin public and private schools.
The bill was proposed to and passed in the Assembly with a 61-37 vote and will now head to the Senate, which it must pass before Gov. Tony Evers reviews the bill. The curriculum would include teaching students about the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights while promoting a desire to participate regularly with the government, according to U.S. News.
The vote on this bill comes with controversy because a separate bill was recently passed in the legislature that bans critical race theory in schools. This bill would have banned teaching ideas that one race is superior to all others or that an individual’s morals are determined by their race or sex, according to the Cap Times.
Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin John Witte said critical race theory will likely not come into fruition because of its ill-definition, but it’s important to discuss race in some way or another within the school system.
“Critical race theory, if you want to be technical about it, only applies to African-Americans,” Witte said. “Hispanic and Asian populations have larger groups as well. You’ve got a racial divide in the United States, a racial combination.”
Once the classroom door shuts, the teacher can do what they want in their classroom, which would partially be why it’s difficult to enforce a curriculum and lessons, Witte said. He added both civics and race theory courses are hard to enforce at the state and national levels because of how complex the topics taught in class can truly become.
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Wisconsin State Superintendent Jill Underly said she is in support of a stronger civics curriculum last week in her State of Education address. She said she wants to work with the Wisconsin Legislature to change laws in order to require civics credits for all students to graduate from a Wisconsin high school, whether it’s public or private.
“Today, I’m going to begin that work by bringing together a group of leaders from across the state to help advise districts on how to make our state a leader in civics education,” Underly said in her address.
Witte said it’s unlikely Evers would allow a civics curriculum bill to pass. There are a lot of ideas that his administration might dislike about the bill, leading to a veto unless there were set topics and limits for every civics class across the state.