April 29, 2021
Did you know?
Did you know that the U.S. Department of Education under the Biden administration released a new proposed rule in mid-April that seeks to address racism through new priorities for federal American history and civics education grants?
The public has until May 19, 2021, to read the proposed rule and submit comments to the U.S. Department of Education.
We believe the parents and educators who are interested in this topic should learn more about the rulemaking process, review this particular rule, and get involved.
It may have lasting impacts on their children’s education.
What is it?
In short, the proposed rule changes the priorities for awarding federal grants for K-12 American history and civics education. More specifically, the rule does so with the purpose of “support[ing] the development of culturally responsive teaching and learning and the promotion of information literacy skills.”
The background section of the rule explains that a major focus of this federal effort is addressing racism in America, which according to statements from the Biden administration is likely part of “an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda.” The background section says, “The Department recognizes that COVID–19 – with its disproportionate impact on communities of color – and the ongoing national reckoning with systemic racism have highlighted the urgency of improving racial equity throughout our society, including in our education system.”
Thus, it’s no surprise that the rule gives priority to grant applicants that “propose projects that incorporate teaching and learning practices that reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students to create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.”
Details give further light to what this means. For example, the rule states that an applicant addressing this priority must describe how it, “take[s] into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities, and discriminatory policy and practice in American history or “encourage[s] students to critically analyze the diverse perspectives of historical and contemporary media and its impacts,” among other factors.
According to some, this rule boils down to championing concepts of critical race theory, a controversial worldview which sees the world in terms of oppressors and the oppressed based on race.
The rule even lists some examples of the “growing acknowledgement of … the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society” including the New York Times 1619 Project and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History – both of which have been the subject of severe criticism and even correction.
For parents and teachers who have strong opinions about how to improve American history and civics amid a growing concern over America’s civics crisis – including concerns about the examples listed in this rule or about the federal role in education – we encourage them to submit comments by the deadline of May 19, 2021.
How can I submit a comment during the federal rulemaking process?
Federal rulemaking is when an agency like the U.S. Department of Education makes rules (regulations that flesh out policy) pursuant to laws created by Congress.
Rulemaking procedure requires that proposed rules be published in the Federal Register and that the public be given the opportunity to offer comments, which the agency then has to review.
The rule includes the following information about submitting comments.
“Submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. We will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that we do not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID at the top of your comments.
- “Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site under “FAQ.”
- “Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, or Hand Delivery: If you mail or deliver your comments about the proposed priorities, address them to Mia Howerton, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 3C152, Washington, DC 20202.”
Good civics education policy already exists in the law. Let’s look locally to determine how well our schools are teaching what is required of them by law.
The last year has been dominated by concerns about health – not only from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also from the effects on well-being and mental health due to the social isolation the pandemic response has sometimes required.
This latest expression of federalism continues what the data suggest may be a new trend in American governance and civic affairs, illustrating that federalism remains alive and well in America.