The new school year brings a fresh onslaught of conservative attacks on public education. As I prepare the syllabus for my “Teaching English for Middle and High School Teachers” course at the University of New Hampshire, a new court challenge to the HB 544 “Divisive Concepts” bill is underway. Passed in 2021, HB 544 prohibits the teaching of racism, sexism and any materials that claim “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
Intentionally vague rhetoric like “divisive concepts” masks the bill’s white supremacist logic. Students recognize how the bill co-opts language commonly used in calls for social justice to argue against diversity. It is the legislators that pass and the administrators that enforce these abhorrent bills that are most to blame.