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Kenai officials: Critical race theory not part of curriculum

July 14, 2021 GMT

KENAI, Alaska (AP) — The new Kenai Public Schools superintendent told a crowd at his first school board meeting that critical race theory is not part of the district’s curriculum but said the district will continue teaching students history.

“Teaching the facts of history, current events and critical thinking is what we do and will continue to do,” Clayton Holland said. “Our teachers are going to teach history. I want to be real clear on that. We’re teaching history. They’re going to teach facts to our students.”

Critical race theory is a framework legal scholars developed in the 1970s and ’80s that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions. District officials have said critical race theory is not part of the curriculum but the issue remained a recurring theme at the Monday meeting, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

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Some community members said if the theory is taught, the district would be moving backward.

“They are indoctrinating our kids with lies,” said Susan Lockwood. “If they don’t like the United States of America, they should just leave and go to China, Russia or Iran or some other communist country.”

Dave Peck of Kenai requested the board consider adopting a formal commitment saying members would not endorse the theory or allow it to become part of the curriculum.

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Nathan Erfurth said district students are taught what happened and who was involved and encouraged to reach their own conclusions.

“Through inquiry, research, projects and activities that parents are encouraged to assist their students with, they are guided to expand their perspectives and build their critical thinking skills so that they are able to draw their own conclusions about what has happened in our past and what it means for our present,” Erfurth said. He used to teach government and history at Soldotna High School and helped craft the district’s social studies curriculum.

Board of Education President Zen Kelly said critical race theory “gets a lot of time on social media, gets a lot of time in certain news circles and it gets a lot of people very, very worked up.” But Kelly said it “really isn’t a problem in our school district.”