The North Carolina Board of Education on Thursday passed revised standards that implement elements of critical race theory into K-12 history lessons.
As part of the newly approved standards, second graders will learn "how various indigenous, religious, gender, and racial groups advocate for freedom and equality," and fourth-grade students will learn how "revolution, reform, and resistance" shaped North Carolina.
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Members of the State Board of Education—most of whom were selected by Democratic governor Roy Cooper—voted to adopt the updated curriculum despite opposition from Republican lieutenant governor Mark Robinson, who said the new standards reflect the board's political agenda and "indoctrinate our students against our great country."
Robinson, who on Saturday launched a petition against the standards that has so far received more than 30,000 signatures, said at Thursday's education board meeting that many North Carolinians either oppose the new standards or are unaware of the curriculum's new content.
"For whatever reason, there are many, many North Carolinians that were not aware of these standards," Robinson said. "In four days, we had contact with over 30,000 people that are diametrically opposed to these standards. They have serious concerns about them. … Moving forward with this is irresponsible."
North Carolina's board of education began revising the state's K-12 history standards in 2019. Board member James Ford, a vocal Black Lives Matter advocate, thwarted a near-approval of updated standards last summer and asked to include more specific terms and name specific marginalized groups for students to study. Before the standards were revised in late January, the standards called for teaching students terms like "systemic racism" and "gender identity."
Under the new standards, high school American history students will learn to "explain how slavery, xenophobia, disenfranchisement, and intolerance have affected individual and group perspectives of themselves as Americans." Students must also "compare how some groups in American society have benefited from economic policies while other groups have been systemically denied the same benefits."
Robinson, the state's first black lieutenant governor, defended the United States against claims that the country's government and economic systems are inherently racist and said that teaching those claims is a "disservice" to students.
"The system of government that we have in this nation is not systemically racist; in fact, it is not racist at all," he said in January. "To say that this is a racist nation—that is not true. And when we write standards that point to that direction in any way, we are doing our students a disservice."