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Vote on language changes to NC classrooms expected Thursday

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) said the proposed changes would just paint America as an inherently racist nation.
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 7:09 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - Three terms are stirring up quite a controversy on the state board of education.

Last month, the state school board was presented with changes to the social studies curriculum that included language standards like using the terms “systemic racism, gender identity and systemic discrimination” in classrooms.

“These standards are divisive, and they have become divisive,” said Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R), who sits on the board. “There are still serious questions around it. It would be irresponsible for this board to pass them at this time.”

Robinson, the first African American to serve as lieutenant governor in North Carolina, said the use of the terms only paints America as an inherently racist nation. And, in his opinion, wrongly so.

“If you call our system of government racist, that is an untruth as far as I’m concerned,” said Robinson. “I truly believe that is an untruth as far as history is concerned.”

The board discussed the changes during what turned into a fiery and divided board meeting Wednesday.

“I have every confidence in our teachers to deliver unbiased instruction that’s appropriate, and that’s grounded in facts and truth,” said Board Member Matthew Bristow-Smith of Edgecombe. “But, also that empowers students to think.”

The discussions of the changes originated over the summer, according to board members, when Black Lives Matter protests were taking place in practically every city across the country over the killings of several unarmed African Americans at the hands of police.

“It’s because of the other conversations that are going on,” said Amy White of Wake County. “That’s the context in which our vehemence has arisen.”

The proposed changes were countered with a proposal that simply included the terms “racism, identity and discrimination.”

“I find it incredibly disingenuous to perpetuate the myth of a perfect American history,” said Nate Kolk-Thompson, one of two student advisors on the board.

Robinson said he plans to introduce a petition to the board with over 13,000 signatures from people opposing the proposed changes.

“There are enough people in this state who have questions about and concerns about these standards that we need to go back to the drawing board again,” said Robinson.

Another issue that became a point of contention, a political cartoon published to NBC affiliate WRAL’s editorial board depicting Republican members of the board in KKK hoods. Robinson called the cartoon offensive and racist.

“Editorial cartoons are creative and provocative, using hyperbole and satire,” Capitol Broadcasting Corporation Editor Seth Effron said in a statement. “No one believes Republicans on the state board of education are members of the Ku Klux Klan.”

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