PBS NewsHour posted an AP story that described the chilling effect of anti-“Critical Race Theory” laws. Laws that ban the teaching of certain subjects and that ban books never end well. They are the path to censorship and ignorance.

New measures that restrict how race is addressed in classrooms have spread confusion and anxiety among many educators, who in some cases have begun pulling books and canceling lessons for fear of being penalized.

Education officials have nixed a contemporary issues class in a Tennessee district, removed Frederick Douglass’ autobiography from reading lists in an Oklahoma school system and, in one Texas case, advised teachers to present “opposing” views of the Holocaust.

At least a dozen states have passed measures this year restricting how schools teach about racism, sexism and other topics. While educators are still waiting to see how they will be enforced, the vagueness of some of the measures, coupled with stiff penalties including potential loss of teaching licenses, already are chilling conversations on race in schools and, in some cases, having consequences that likely go well beyond the intent of those approving the measures.

Matt Hawn, a high school social studies teacher in Tennessee, said he has heard from teachers concerned about how they will teach controversial topics since he was fired himself this spring as state lawmakers were finalizing new teaching restrictions.

“It’s certainly giving them caution, like, ‘What’s going to happen if I teach this?’ — because the penalty is so steep,’” Hawn said.

Hawn was dismissed after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated.

Teaching around race and diversity has been on the rise alongside a broader acknowledgment that racial injustice didn’t end in America with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Those efforts have spurred a backlash, particularly among Republican voters.

Some sections of the new laws would seem unobjectionable. Tennessee’s law bars the teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex. But other sections are more murky, barring teaching that promotes division or causes children to feel psychological distress because of their race or sex...

In Tennessee, a conservative group of mothers in the Nashville suburb of Williamson County, Moms for Liberty, has challenged how schools teach the civil rights movement to second graders.

In a letter to the Department of Education, Robin Steenman complained that the texts and accompanying teachers manual imply that “people of color continue to be oppressed by an oppressive ‘angry, vicious, scary, mean, loud, violent, (rude), and (hateful)’ white population.” The books Steenman cited include “Ruby Bridges Goes to School” and “Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington.”

In Oklahoma, teachers in the Edmond Public Schools said books by authors of color were struck from a list of anchor texts, around which English teachers build their curriculum. A lawsuit filed by teachers, students and parents said the district also removed commonly taught texts by Black authors from the curriculum, including the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

How is a teacher to know what is permissible?

Clearly, to comply with the law and to avoid arousing parent anger, teach children that racism happened long, long ago, but it doesn’t exist anymore.

Never mention anything happening today that suggests the persistence of racism (which doesn’t exist anymore), like the murder of George Floyd, Briona Taylor, Tamar Rice, or other persons of color.

Do not mention the 2020 election, so as to avoid discussing who won or lost.

Do not ever discuss gun control or gun rights (too divisive).

Do not discuss abortion (too divisive).

Do not discuss the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr. or Martin Luther King Jr. (divisive).

Do not discuss immigration (divisive).

Perhaps what the legislatures should do is revise the laws so that they describe in detail what teachers are allowed to teach.

Best of all would be if legislatures agreed that they should not write curriculum.