CHEYENNE — A freshman Wyoming legislator suggested Wednesday that there are two sides to the history of American slavery, and that Black Americans are “stuck” in a mentality he called “worse than slavery itself.”

“Slavery was something that shouldn’t have happened in America, but it did. But we’ve created slavery into a place that has created a position of being stuck, in my opinion, for a people group,” Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland) told lawmakers Wednesday. “And that’s a sad place to be. And that was probably, in my opinion, worse than the slavery itself, because we have created a place where people cannot get free from because of their past.

“So slavery needs to be discussed,” he added. “It needs to be brought forward and the different views, that slavery was not maybe what it has been painted as in this nation, completely.”

Haroldson made the comments as he presented members of the House Education Committee with HB-177 – Education-Understanding federal and state government, a bill that would rewrite parts of Wyoming’s public schools curriculum.

Haroldson told his fellow lawmakers the bill was inspired by a lack of civics knowledge he had seen exhibited by Wyoming high school students, and as a response to what he described as a system that is “very much tilting more towards a liberal view of education.”

The measure would require Wyoming public schools to not only educate schoolchildren on the U.S. Constitution — which is already required by law — but also on a number of “threats encountered by the democratic republic and free society,” a list that includes “identity politics,” corruption in government, religious discrimination and “the political extremisms of fascism and communism.”

“I don’t believe that [students are] getting a fully well-rounded view of the founding of this nation,” Haroldson, a pastor, told his fellow lawmakers.

While the bill failed to advance on a 7-2 vote, some committee members expressed interest in his ideas, including Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Though she offered no comment on the language used in the bill itself, Balow told lawmakers she supported the bill “in concept.”

Other educators — including the state’s two largest education organizations — opposed the bill, saying it offers prescriptive guidelines for curriculum that don’t exist for other subjects like math or science.

Tate Mullen, of the Wyoming Education Association, added there are already numerous, unbiased civics education initiatives in Wyoming schools and that while he would love to expand those efforts, “this is not the way.”

WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy

Since moving to Jackson Hole in 1992, Richard has covered everything from local government and criminal justice to sports and features. He currently concentrates on arts and entertainment, heading up the Scene section.

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