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Is there a critical race theory bill in Iowa

that bans the teaching of the following topics: sexism, slavery, racial segregation, racial discrimination, including topics related to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in sexism, racial oppression, and segregation.

This is a direct quote, broken by interruption, from Richard Fowler on Fox News’ “The Five” show on June 22nd, 2021 who seems to read it word-for-word from his notes on the table. The relevant claims begin after the 7 minute mark, but context is provided from the beginning.

Of the bill, Fowler claims

It says it’s prohibited. It says it’s prohibited from the curriculum. It’s prohibited from the curriculum. It’s in section 5 of the bill.

Is it true, according to Fowler,

they really couldn’t teach 1776 because Abigail Adam’s letters to her husband on remembering the women would actually be illegal per the bill in Iowa.

He further claims

I’m just telling you what the bill says.

Jesse Watters is quite vehement Fowler’s claims are false. Jesse admits he has not read the bill several times. However, the claim there is such a bill which bans these topics is an extraordinary claim.

Is there anything in the bill which implies

we will not teach slavery in school in Iowa

as Watters doubts? He further claims

I guarantee you it has not prohibited the teaching of slavery in history class in the state of Iowa.

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    By "teaching", does it mean "promoting" or "teaching about"? I could see good intentions and a suboptimal grasp of English leading to such a bill.
    – jwodder
    Jun 24 at 12:35
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The only close match I can find for this language in recent bills of the Iowa legislature is HF 802, which was signed into law on June 8, 2021. If this is the bill that Fowler is talking about, then his characterization is not accurate.

The Iowa Legislature, like all US state legislatures, has a website where you can search recent and pending legislation. I searched for keywords "sexism segregation", and HF 802 was the only relevant result (together with some other versions of the same bill).

In Section 1 of the bill, apparently creating new section 25A.1 in the Iowa Code, subsection 4 provides (emphasis mine):

  1. This section shall not be construed to do any of the following: [...] (d)
    Prohibit the use of curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, or racial discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in sexism, racial oppression, segregation, and discrimination.

The same text, with the same "not", is repeated in Sections 2 and 3.

So the bill does contain the text "prohibit the use of curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism", etc, but it is in a list of things that the bill shall not be construed to do. As such, this bill, at least by its plain language, explicitly does not ban the teaching of these topics.

It is possible that Fowler just saw paragraph (d) and didn't notice the "not" several paragraphs earlier.

HF 802 isn't an exact match for Fowler's description as the text is not in Section 5 of the bill; in fact the bill doesn't seem to have a Section 5 at all. It's conceivable that Fowler is talking about some other bill but I couldn't find any other plausible candidates. The provisions and subtext of the bill do otherwise seem to fit with the description as a "critical race bill".

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  • The definitional section "Specific defined concepts" immediately preceding 2. references most of the subject matter which might reasonably be expected to come up in any curriculum. Section 2. disallows "Specific defined concepts" from being included by anyone in training. So section 2 says "cannot" and section 4 says do not construe the above to mean "cannot."
    – Yorik
    Jun 24 at 20:58
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    @Yorik: I suppose that depends on whether you believe it's possible to appropriately teach the topics of sexism, slavery, etc, without including the "specific defined concepts". The bill's proponents probably think that it is. Anyway, the "specific defined concepts" don't seem to be what Fowler was talking about. Jun 24 at 22:05
  • The definitions of the topics in question are proscribed, so prohibiting curriculum about the topics need not even occur since once cannot use language to implement it. I want to be clear here, the topics themselves are not relevant to the analysis.
    – Yorik
    Jun 25 at 14:39

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