The Right and Wrong Way to Address Concerns About Critical Race Theory (Opinion)

Recently I discussed some of my concerns about what is being done under the banner of “anti-racist” education. While I shared that I have significant misgivings about many of the policies, practices and programs adopted on his behalf, I have also observed that “the underlying anti-racist impulse obviously holds a lot of value.”

Yet, as I have noted, the doctrine of anti-racist education has turned, in too many cases, into something much more problematic. When “anti-racists” command students to label themselves as “privileged” or “oppressed” because of their race or ethnicity, to promote radical ideological agendas, or to reject traits such as “hard work” or “thought” linear “as signs of” white supremacy, “” their most sane efforts are lost in culture wars.

Today, however, I want to shift the focus from advocates of anti-racist education to its detractors, especially those who have rampaged against Critical Race Theory (CRT). The meteoric decline in anti-racism and the CRT has given rise to a series of laws designed to end questionable practices in public schools. In my opinion, there have been two general types of responses: those that seek to ban ideas or restrict thinking and those that seek to end dangerous and discriminatory teaching practices. The first approach is destructive, flawed, and obscures the common ground that exists; the second is appropriate, even essential.

First, in the wrong way: Many lawmakers have taken a reflective and reckless approach, introducing or passing bills that seek to ban topics or ideas they find problematic. For example, Oklahoma’s “CRT ban” enacted last month states that “No teacher, administrator or other employee of a school district, charter school or virtual charter school shall require or incorporate into a course the following concepts. . . “Even though I find the list of topics fairly innocuous (I tend to agree that public schools should not teach students that ‘one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex”) , the task of defining, implementing and controlling a list of prohibited ideas very quickly becomes disturbing.

In addition, some of the topics that Oklahoma prohibits strike me as extraordinarily vague. For example, it is not clear what exactly is meant by the provision that “no individual should experience discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or background. sex ”. While I fully agree that elementary school students should not be sent home in tears by educators more focused on ideological crusades than student welfare, it is inevitable that middle and high school students high school students experience race or gender distress when they talk about Jim Crow, the Holocaust, Korematsu, or Roe deer. Expecting teachers not to consciously inflict emotional pain is one thing; to suggest that they cover all of these subjects is another.

David French of The Dispatch said it right when he wrote, “Ask yourself what is the line between teaching concepts essential to an understanding of American history and culture. . . and the ban on making these concepts “part of a course”? French, a lawyer and fierce champion of free speech, observed that laws must “be clear enough to be understood by people of ordinary intelligence. Instead, these laws are broad and vague enough to create an extraordinary chilling effect on classroom discourse. The language of these bills must be such that the courts and school systems can apply them judiciously. General language that prohibits loosely listed ideas from being included in the “part of a course” does not meet this bar.

On the other hand, what is both defensible and necessary are legislative efforts to ensure that advocates, educators and ideological administrators do not engage in some of the particular disturbing practices that circulate under the banner of the CRT or “anti-racist education”. Lawmakers have the right and obligation to insist that public educators approach their work in a manner consistent with statutory and judicial doctrines demanding equal protection and a safe learning environment for all students, of all races, ethnic or national origin. This is where they stand on solid ground.

Lawmakers do well when they consciously echo the provisions of the Civil Rights Act that have been swept away by the excesses of anti-racist education. After all, public educators forcing students to participate in a racial “affinity group” and label themselves based on their race or ethnicity are not a problem, as students talk about stimulating ideas. This is a problem because Title VI of the Civil Rights Act protects students from racially-motivated discriminatory treatment or harassment. The problem with teaching students that “objectivity” or “being polite” is part of the “white supremacist culture” is not that it is bad for students to examine epistemological issues or norms. societal, but that it is wrong to insist that certain universal civilizational traits are the property of a racial or ethnic group.

Focusing on the issue as strengthening civil rights law means it shouldn’t be a problem, for conservatives or anyone else, for schools to tackle the kinds of problems associated with CRT, as long as educators do so in a way that is pedagogically responsible and respects the legal rights of their students. It is a principled position that provides constructive common ground for people of good faith.

Idaho’s law provides a successful model for addressing legitimate concerns without going into banning ideas or suggesting that certain topics should be banned. He declares that no educational institution “shall order or compel students to affirm personally” that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is inherently superior or inferior [and/or] that individuals should be treated unfavorably on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin. Such language does not seek to prohibit or restrict ideas or what is taught – it restricts specific actions. And these actions are meaningfully defined in a way that brings clarity to schools and justice.

Responding to “anti-racist” education or CRT by seeking to ban ideas, truncate history, or stifle (age-appropriate) discussions is a mistake. Period. However, if anyone has any issues with provisions like those in Idaho, they have to explain them to me very slowly and very deliberately. Because I don’t know of any serious person who wants schools to teach racial essentialism, or preach superiority (and racial inferiority), or treat certain children as if they are not entitled to equal protection of the laws. . And while simple safeguards such as those in Idaho can help control troubling practices, we can still find our way to common ground in this controversial debate.

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