How and when did Critical Race Theory come to dominate so much of American education? The short answer is that it came under the guise of words that most people think they understand and favor. These words are later used against parents and children.
An example of the stealth infiltration of words is Illinois, which is one state that would have a conservative majority were it not for the big-city liberal bastion of Chicago. Like so many state bureaucracies, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is overwhelmingly leftist. The ISBE promoted programs with seemingly innocuous language that later gave rise to new and very radical standards for civic education.
Rules for Radical Teachers
On February 25, 2021, the ISBE adopted The Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards. Most Illinois citizens have probably not read it – and for a good reason. If published as a book, the Standards would not be a page-turner.
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A half-dozen quotations plucked from the Standards should suffice to show that it is a dangerously leftist document (Emphases added.). The quotes define the ideal teacher.
- “The culturally responsive teacher and leader will… [e]xplore their own intersecting identities, how they were developed, and how they impact daily experience of the world.”
- “The culturally responsive teacher and leader will… [a]ssess how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”
- “Culturally responsive teachers and leaders understand that there are systems in our society that create and reinforce inequities, thereby creating oppressive conditions.”
- “The culturally responsive teacher and leader will…[b]e aware of the effects of power and privilege and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse students and communities.”
- The culturally responsive teacher and leader will… [k]now and understand how a system of inequity creates rules regarding student punishment that negatively impacts students of color.”
- “The culturally responsive teacher and leader will… [h]old high expectations in which all students can participate and lead as student advocates or activists.”
Thus, only those who believe relativism, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality are qualified to teach in the State of Illinois. These teachers must impose these tenets on their students. Teachers are considered successful when they turn students into leftist “social justice warriors.”
Radicalism Couched in Comfortable Words
The original of these radical standards comes from a 2015 Illinois “Civic Education” law.
A little-known document titled Implementation in Illinois: What States Can Learn from How Illinois Implemented its 2015 Civic Education Law tells the story behind the law in glowing terms. It comes from a group called CivXNow and is funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
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Col. Robert R. McCormack (1880-1955) would probably disapprove of how his money is now spent. He was the Chicago Tribune publisher when it was one of the nation’s most conservative newspapers. His favorite target was his liberal nemesis, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
According to Implementation in Illinois, the 2015 Civic Education Law had four “areas of concentration.”
- Direct instruction on civics and government.
- Simulation that teachers could use to show how democratic processes and practices work.
- Support for teachers to help them understand how to design and implement service-learning programs that both give students a chance to apply what they learn by taking it out into the real world and linking those actions with formal curriculum and classroom instruction.
- Guidance on how to incorporate and lead discussion of controversial topics… help build critical thinking skills.
Shifting Definitions and Talismanic Words
The listed goals are not intentionally threatening. Indeed, those who crafted the document used a series of “talismanic words” to mask their real intentions.
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In his masterful work, Inadvertent Ideological Transhipment and Dialogue, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explained the use of these deliberately misleading terms:
“[It] is a word whose legitimate meaning is congenial and, at times, even noble; but it is also a word that has some elasticity. When it is used tendentiously, it begins to shine with a new radiance, fascinating the patient and taking him much farther than he could have imagined.”
“The talismanic words correspond to what the media generally considers modern, pleasant and attractive. Thus, the lecturers, speakers, or writers who use these words do so for the sole reason of seeing their chances of a good reception in the press, radio, or television considerably enhanced. For this reason, the person listening to the radio or the television or reading the newspaper will find these words used everywhere in every possible way, with growing repercussion in his soul.”
Tracking Down a Definition
For example, consider the word “civics.” It typically was employed to define the mechanics of government, lawmaking and citizen duties. The left saw it fit to expand upon this concept.
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Radicals hate definitions. Definitions set limits, and the radicals want the maximum possible level of flexibility. Implementation in Illinois never actually defines civics. However, it frequently refers to another report, The Civic Mission of Schools, funded by The Carnegie Commission. In place of a definition, Civic Mission lists four traits of “competent and responsible” citizenship. The emphases are added. Thus, responsible citizens…
1. …have an understanding and awareness of public and community issues; and have the ability to… think critically, and enter into dialogue among others with different perspectives.
2. participate in their communities….
3. act politically… such as group problem solving, public speaking, petitioning and protesting, and voting.
4. have moral and civic virtues such as concern for the rights and welfare of others… and belief in the capacity to make a difference.
Again, this “definition” is replete with talismanic words. These terms can be expanded to include more recent activities and ideas. “Critical thinking” means agreeing with Critical Race Theory. Public protests and campaigns for leftist courses of action are the preferred methods of “participation.” Taking up the causes of “the oppressed” is the way to advance “the rights and welfare of others.” The “difference” is the accomplishment of radical goals.
This form of civics instruction is not about information; it seeks to train activists.
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According to the Civic Mission authors, the schools are the best place for this civics training since “all young people, including those who are usually marginalized, [should] be knowledgeable, engaged in their communities and in politics, and committed to the public good.”
Armed with expanding definitions of words and concepts, the education establishment has become the most socialist aspect of American life. Harmful ideas like Critical Race Theory flourish in socialist environments. It provides cover for nameless bureaucrats to focus on winning the praise of their colleagues and superiors, all of whom graduated from increasingly radical education schools. In the current environment, being “anti-racist” after the manner of Ibram X. Kendi wins instant acclaim.
Only a diligent public can defeat the leftists that find cozy niches in the education bureaucracy.
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