Critical Race Theory: Indoctrination or Education?

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Graphic/Elena Wright

Elena Wright, Staff Writer

The answer to the question “What is critical race theory?” varies greatly depending on who you ask. 

If you ask the parents protesting in Loudoun County and several others across the country, schools might as well be telling kids to drink the kool-aid (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up). 

With many states passing anti critical race theory (CRT) legislation in classrooms, there must be a good reason to fear it, right? Yeah, no. With streams of misinformation and deliberate lies coming from our politicians, many have an inaccurate perception of what CRT is. 

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, stated that CRT was teaching kids to “hate America through the anti-American curriculum.” . Having this type of misinformation coming from people behind legislation is scary—and dangerous. 

In reality, critical race theory is, according to the American Bar Association, “a practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship.” Furthermore, Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term critical race theory, believes that CRT is not a noun but a verb, critiquing the social construction of race and institutional racism.

Believe it or not, CRT is not a new concept. It has been taught in higher education since the 1970s and only recently has become controversial. In light of the BLM movement in response to the countless murders of Black people at the hands of police, and a shift to a more equitable approach to learning, CRT and a focus on inclusivity have become hot button issues. CRT, due to misinformation, has been weaponized as a way to attack simply teaching accurate history and giving children a well-rounded education.

So what are schools (and specifically our schools) teaching when it comes to equity, racism, or even CRT?

Christine Merritt, Director of Curriculum for grades 6-12 in SCASD, explained some of the misconceptions associated with CRT and how equity and inclusivity are taught in our district. She explained that in our district, we don’t teach the CRT that is taught in higher-level education.

 “We do teach important equity-minded kinds of topics to include all of the students in our community,” Merritt said. She also explained the importance of providing multiple perspectives when exploring our history and education in general to provide a complete and accurate understanding. Furthermore, our district is constantly changing our curriculum through a six-year cycle in accordance with guidelines set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 

Racism can be an uncomfortable topic and to avoid talking about it, many claim that acknowledging racism and that it exists, is racist in and of itself. This backward way of thinking can be devastating—time and silence will not fix centuries old hatred. Teaching the importance and reality of racism and its deep roots in American history is crucial to understanding where we are today and the devastating effects that systemic racism continues to have on people of color.

Dr. Cynthia Young, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Penn State, expressed the importance of teaching about the history and current implications of racism in our country.   

“Students should have opportunities to think deeply about the relationship between race, racism, and power….it’s a significant element of our society, it is ongoing in terms of its impact on people.” Furthermore, Young says it is crucial that we look critically at the systems and structures upholding racism rather than individuals.

Learning history accurately seems like a pretty reasonable expectation in our public schools, so what is concerning parents and sending many into a panic? Misinformation, Young says. “This whole moral panic over CRT is really just completely made up…. As another cultural wedge.”

Many of the farfetched arguments against CRT simply use words and ideas that are unrelated to the actual teachings of CRT.

“They’ll throw socialism around, which again, there is no relationship between that and CRT,” Young said. The arguments against CRT and addressing systemic racism are not based in facts; instead, they are rooted in an illogical fear of the truth. 

We need to shift our focus from made-up problems and fear-mongering to the real (keyword) issues faced by people of color. The real problem, Young says, is  “not that so many people teach the relationship between race, racism, and power—it’s that not enough people do.”

By learning from our past and acknowledging its implications on the present we are able to grow and evolve as a country. By caring about our country, “you want to make it better, not that you think everything it does is perfect,“ Young says. Believing that this country has always been great and has no room for improvement, is only going to be to our detriment. 

At the end of the day, school is meant to create well-rounded individuals for life beyond high school.

“I want every State High student to graduate with the skills, the attitude, and readiness to excel after high school no matter what they do…… We live in a diverse world and we have to understand it to thrive in it,” Merritt said.  

We cannot teach an incomplete version of US history. To teach the founding of this country without addressing how we decimated entire Native populations and how racism was created as a justification for the brutalities of slavery would give an inaccurate and flawed perspective. Wouldn’t we want the very best education for the future of this country? If so, maybe, just maybe, we should stop wasting our time fighting to censor history.

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