Should critical race theory be banned in public schools? That’s a moot question according to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who says “that’s like banning ghosts.” She’s listening to dissemblers like Virginia’s defeated gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who asserted boldly, and incorrectly, that CRT has “never been taught in Virginia.”
McAuliffe evidently forgot that the Virginia Department of Education encouraged schools to “embrace Critical Race Theory” when he was governor in order to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems.” The Virginia Department of Education website contains the phrase more than once.
The Associated Press attempts to settle the matter: “There is little to no evidence that critical race theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students, though some ideas central to it, such as lingering consequences of slavery, have been.”
Perhaps MSNBC and the Associated Press need a little lesson in what Critical Race Theory is and is not.
Critical Race Theory is not the unobjectionable idea that we should study the history of race and racism in America. Rather, CRT is a dogma that teaches that racism is a permanent feature of American life and that all Americans are either members of a victim class or an oppressor class. In her book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson claims the United States has systematically embedded racism into the foundation of society, thus institutionalizing a caste system built on skin color. The American Bar Association explains that proponents of CRT seek to reverse that supposed result by teaching white children they are the oppressors of their black classmates.
CRT deniers are correct that CRT is an academic theory originally developed in law schools. But while public schools may not be teaching the theory itself (by, for example, asking students to read the work of critical legal theorists Derrick Bell or Kimberlé Crenshaw), many of them are, in fact, implementing the work of these scholars who urge students to consider all social problems through the lens of racial power.
Consider the following examples of CRT, all of which are common in American schools today:
When the COVID-19 pandemic unmasked public school classroom curriculum, CRT indoctrination such as this was exposed. And educational elites quickly began to move to the semantic underground, ditching the infamous label. CRT activists are now in damage control mode to change wording.
Parents must train themselves to sniff out CRT’s sulfurous philosophies beneath sweet-smelling diction.
It should surprise no one that teaching kids they are automatically racist because of their skin color motivates parents to protest at school board meetings.
The fact is, parents today want their children taught to respect all races and learn the truths of America’s history. But they refuse to have their 6-year-olds coming home from a history lesson asking if they were “born evil” because they are white, as happened recently in Virginia.
Parental unrest causes curriculum writers to spray “word freshener” on jargon, creating euphemisms. But the desired outcomes are the same as those in CRT-labeled curricula.
For instance, the CRT method of discipline labeled restorative justice sounds efficacious. Rule-breaking students are given alternate methods of reinstatement instead of the “racist” detention, suspension, and expulsion through zero-tolerance policies. Though the lenient system cuts down on minority referrals, many studies show it is not working to correct behavior.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion,” another positive-sounding mantra, is taking America’s schools — and most other institutions — by storm.
Semantics again: Equality and equity sound synonymous but are as different as a prom dress and a milkshake. Equality is about ensuring necessary learning advantages for everyone. Equity requires making sure the outcomes are the same for all, no matter what the students’ effort or acquired skill.
In the words of Rod Dreher writing for the American Conservative, equity means “tearing down any and all structural barriers that … stand in the way of equal outcomes” (italics added).
Nobody would accept as valid a track meet that required sprinters to pause until slower runners catch up. But CRT proponents expect bright students in mathematics to do that very thing, as mandated by California’s Instructional Quality Commission.
Another scrubbed-clean buzzword is anti-racism. Rick Hess, educational policy maven with the American Enterprise Institute, writes in Education Week: “Resisting ‘Anti-Racist’ Education Is Neither Racist Nor Unreasonable.” In his words, “When a movement appears to be visibly championing values that are regarded as wrongheaded by two-thirds or more of the nation, pushback is inevitable.”
“No, we don’t teach CRT at Central High. Where did you see those words?” the teacher might say at parents’ night.
Here are some other giveaway words and phrases that signal the principles of CRT: internalized bias, implicit/unconscious racism, white fragility/supremacy, CQ (cultural intelligence), racial hierarchies, normative, identity, Eurocentric, ethnocentric, and reparation. Also, look for dominant ideology, social justice, intersectionality, experiential knowledge, BIPOC, and the 1619 Project.
The goal for critical race theory is to permeate every subject in school and “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems.”
Pundits will continue to pronounce critical race theory as an imaginary ghost. Parents who believe them are just whistling in the dark.
Marilyn Quigley is a visiting fellow with Independent Women’s Forum.