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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Critical race theory has become so controversial, it’s even banned from being taught in K-12 public schools in Tennessee. But in just a few weeks, students at Austin Peay State University will have the opportunity to dive into and debate its teachings.  

APSU political science professor Matt Kenney says he feels a duty to delve into critical race theory.

“We had slavery in this country for several hundred years. We had Jim Crow laws here in the south, discriminatory practices in housing and banking,” Kenney explained. “So I would argue we have a duty and obligation to understand those and try to see are their lingering effects from those past forms of racism.” 

Starting in December, Kenney will offer a class to students at APSU aimed at addressing what critical race theory is and what it’s not.  

“Critical race theory definitely has goals that these social injustices need to be identified, explained, and then overcome in some way,” Kenney said.  

Recent events have brought the subject to the forefront, including the death of George Floyd, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement. With that has also come backlash. 

“It’s been so politicized…and has been kind of demonized as an approach,” Kenney said. “I think a lot of people are concerned because they think there’s a hidden agenda here and it’s un-American to continue to talk about racism and allege it continues to this day.” 

Despite all of the polarization, Kenney says these discussions are critical for our country’s future.  

“If we can’t have these discussions in a kind of more open and civil and transparent way, then it’s difficult to see how we can kind of move forward as a people, as a society,” Kennedy said.  

Governor Bill Lee officially banned teaching critical race theory in schools last spring, particularly any teachings saying one race or sex is superior to another, or the U.S. is fundamentally racist

Kenney said the theory is more commonly discussed in law schools and graduate courses, not middle or high schools.

APSU’s critical race theory course is open to all undergraduate students, regardless of their major. The class begins on December 11.