In case you missed it, InDepthNH yesterday reported The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire hosted a conversation on “Divisive Concepts: A Chilling Effect on Teaching History” to discuss the harmful, anti-education legislation that the NH GOP is pushing in Concord. Their panelists included Sen. David Watters (D-Dover), who has helped lead the charge against this harmful legislation.
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire already knew it, the words of Elizabeth Dubrulle, director of education and public programs of the New Hampshire Historical Society. Dubrulle said, “This is the time to be brave.”
JerriAnne Boggis, BHT Executive Director, and her staff opened their annual public conversation on democracy Sunday with bravery, by hosting a conversation on “Divisive Concepts: A Chilling Effect on Teaching History.” Covid limited attendance to 50 people, seated behind plexiglass wings at Portsmouth Middle School. Over 700 streamed in.
The term “divisive concepts” draws on language in House Bill 544, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ammon, R-New Boston, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, and Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, and is also known as the bill on “prohibition of teaching discrimination.”
“Divisive concept” bill prohibits teaching that “An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex…”
Watters said that passing of the state budget by the Republican-controlled Senate was contingent on the inclusion of the amendment to “prohibit the teaching of discrimination.” This law seeks to regulate what can be taught and punishments to teachers.
“We’re talking about erasing any history of bad acts,” Nikita Stewart wrote.
Dubrulle offered a long view of the diminishing social studies curriculum in New Hampshire schools. “Kids don’t know the context of New Hampshire history to be able to put wars in chronological order. There’s almost no social studies” before high school. She said that because of testing requirements, teachers are forced to focus on English language arts and math. Today, teachers are more scrutinized than ever before in a subject that has the least support.
Watters echoes these ideas. “There’s a diminishment of history being taught in the schools, from k-12. There’s less emphasis on the humanities and arts. In New Hampshire there’s so much history to be proud of concerning the struggles for freedom. The study of our Black history is a way to foster learning.”
Bakkom said, “I didn’t expect this [prohibition of teaching discrimination] 23 years into my career.” Stewart said, “It’s not guilt that [teaching history] seeks to develop. It’s about awareness.”
Watters said about the “divisive concepts” legislation: “We are facing a hiring crisis of teachers. New Hampshire used to be a magnet for teachers.” When he taught at the University of New Hampshire, he said, “I always encouraged students who wanted to become teachers. I told them, ‘I hope you’ll teach in New Hampshire.’ I can’t say that with confidence anymore. They could face lawsuits for what they say. They could lose their homes.”