‘Extremist’ bills in OK legislature seek to change access to literature, social-emotional learning

Bills proposed by Senator Rob Standridge (R-Norman) and other Republican leaders could change matters in education, and not for the better

Delnaz Kazemi, Reporter

Recent updates in the Oklahoma state legislature have left people wondering what exactly officials are trying to accomplish: better education or simply using trigger words to continue to get individuals riled up for the wrong reasons, or reasons that may not exist at all? 

Recent discussions around the country in regards to public education have revolved around banning the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” or “CRT.” The news outlet that has taken a more conservative stance recently now more than ever, Fox News, has mentioned “Critical Race Theory” more than 1,900 times in less than four months, according to Media Matters. CRT has been defined as an idea that “states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.” 

Some groups, mainly consisting of Republican lawmakers, have defined the term as an anti-white idea that needs to be removed from schools. Of course, according to the definition mentioned, this sentiment is entirely false. 

A certain bill with similar-sounding wording was introduced to the Oklahoma state legislature that would remove social-emotional learning from Oklahoma schools

This teaching has taken shape in education over a long period of time. Although it has never been taught directly, relationship and team-building, among other types of social-emotional learning have been used to help children develop into functioning adults. As humans, we have a large emotional range. This sort of learning helps kids and teens grow and mature while learning how to be aware of their emotions and to use their empathy capabilities for good. 

Two other bills, these authored by Senator Rob Standridge (R-Norman), aim to “prohibit schools in the state from making books about sexual behavior available to students, and prohibiting colleges from requiring students to enroll in courses focused on diversity.” 

Others have argued that learning about “difficult” topics through books and other means is what helps students learn about and understand each other.

Media Center specialist Jillian Thomas believes that “people have the right to access ideas and information.” She also said that “parents have the right to draw a line that may prevent their child from certain ideas until they’re mature enough to receive them – that’s a reality of life and parenthood…but I do not believe a group of people get to determine where that line is for every student.”

“Reading breaks down barriers and gives readers a more rounded worldview,” Thomas said. 

These types of bills are very clearly meant to keep a closed-minded, conservative bubble over the state. They are extremist and are being put in place — or being attempted to put in place — as political symbols, and not even an ounce of truth, concern, or care is attached to them.