Open Letter to Georgia Senators on SB 377

Matthew Teutsch
4 min readJan 29, 2022

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.” — Frederick Douglass What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (1852)

The proposed Senate Bill 377 serves as nothing more than a coded bill aimed at limiting the dissemination of information to students, faculty, and staff, and to the stifling of educational inquiry in the classroom. As the parent of children in the Georgia school system and as an educator with twenty years of experience in the classroom in both K-12 and the postsecondary level, I am disturbed by this proposed bill.

While I agree with some aspects of this bill, notably that “divisive concepts” such as stating that “one race or ethnicity is inherently superior to another race or ethnicity” or that “an individual should not be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race, skin color, or ethnicity” are wrong, through and through, I see some of the other “divisive concepts” as hindering educators’ ability to successfully engage with students and have important conversations that affect them in the classroom. These include the “divisive concepts” that “the United States of America and the State of Georgia are fundamentally or systematically racist” and that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or were created by individuals of a particular race to oppress individuals of another race.” Even though I disagree with these statements on face value, that is not what I want to focus on; instead, I want to focus on why presenting these as “divisive concepts” hinders educators and places them in a catch 22.

Later, the bill states that nothing in the revised section “shall be construed to do any of the following.” It states that it will not “prohibit the discussion of divisive concepts, as part of a larger course of instruction, in an objective manner and without endorsement” and that it will not “prohibit the use of curriculum that address topics of slavery, racial or ethnic oppression, racial or ethnic segregation, or racial or ethnic discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in such oppression, segregation, and discrimination.”

Following the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE), students in 8th grade history

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.