Nate Bowling sees the current national controversy over Critical Race Theory (CRT) in simple terms. “It’s white backlash plus moral panic.”
Mr. Bowling is not an uninformed observer. He is a social studies teacher and the 2016 “Teacher of the Year” for the State of Washington.
He was quoted in the school administrators’ “trade paper,” Education Week. The article’s title reveals its focus. “Why the Critical Race Theory Fight Is Harder for Educators Than the Common Core Battle.”
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Education Week strongly supports CRT. The two national teachers’ unions, the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers also defend the flawed theory. In their minds, the barbarians (meaning CRT resistors) are at the gate. Not since the Common Core debate has the educational establishment faced such serious resistance—and this wave is more threatening.
Indeed, Common Core was a clash over curricula and teaching methods. Now, teachers are telling children that their parents are racists.
A sign of the turmoil is the current rash of school board recall elections. Ballotpedia counts 54 such recalls movements in 2021 (an all-time high), as opposed to 29 in 2020 and 20 in 2019.
Faulty and Contradictory Arguments
The article’s author, Education Week’s assistant editor Andrew Ujifusa, lays out several arguments.
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Careful examination reveals that the arguments are full of contradictions. On the one hand, leftists increasingly—and disingenuously—claim that CRT is a legal or academic theory having nothing to do with K-12 education. At the same time, they also argue there is an urgent need to expose children to CRT’s conclusions early and often.
Most of the arguments are “red herrings.” Mr. Ujifusa paints an inaccurate picture and then refutes his fictional creation. His contentions follow four primary lines of reasoning, which will be dissected here.
1. We aren’t even talking about CRT. Education Week charges that CRT’s opponents have “stretched it to cover various ways in which schools address issues like racism and sexism.” The article then quotes Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass. “[W]e are advancing equity, and that’s not the same as critical race theory.”
Ibram X. Kendi, whose book How to Be an Antiracist brought CRT to the masses, now claims to know little about it. Joy Reid quoted him on the June 23, 2021 episode of her MSNBC program when he said that “I admire critical race theory, but I don’t identify as a critical race theorist, I’m not a legal scholar, so I wasn’t trained on critical race theory. I’m a historian.”
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Dr. Kendi has sold thousands of copies of his CRT-themed book, plus a workbook and a children’s version. Now, he pretends that he wrote about something else. Therefore, he claimed his ill-informed opponents attack something that they don’t understand. He says he is ignorant about the topic.
2. CRT resistors are trying to tell teachers how to teach. For the last three decades, state Departments of Education have limited the freedom of teachers to make curricular decisions. More recently, these same bureaucrats have increasingly dictated how the material is to be taught. Leftists dominate most education departments and university schools of education and thus determine the direction of things.
With this background of control, Education Week tries to turn the tables and portray conservatives as those forcing teachers into “straitjackets” in the classroom. “State lawmakers target it as part of sweeping new restrictions on teaching ‘divisive concepts.’”
Such language is purposefully misleading. As students, most conservative legislators endured liberal-dominated universities. As students, they often presented the “other side,” much to their professors’ chagrin.
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These legislators don’t want to prevent students from considering controversial topics. They do want students to be comfortable expressing their positions freely. On the contrary, CRT-inspired curricula, like the materials inspired by the “1619 Project,” only present one distorted side of American history. They portray leftist opinions and outright fallacies as revealed truth that all must accept without question. If anyone is forcing people into straitjackets, it is the CRT lobby.
3. CRT resistors aren’t playing fair. Liberals scream about “transparency” in decision-making but are frustratingly opaque themselves. Many school boards and state Departments of Education implemented CRT behind closed doors. Now Mr. Ujifusa pouts about parents using legal tools. “They’ve used tactics like official information requests and federal civil rights complaints as part of their strategy.”
However, these “tactics” came out of the leftist camp. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was the brainchild of California’s John E. Moss, a liberal Democrat, who worked for over a decade to get it passed. Lyndon Johnson, the most liberal president of the late twentieth century, signed it. Radicals used FOIA requests to obtain compromising information about the War in Vietnam and then against President Nixon. Now, they present FOIA as a right-wing plot.
4. The CRT issue was created and nurtured by Republicans for cynical political reasons. This argument is the most ridiculous one. Most conservatives never heard of CRT until The New York Times’s “1619 Project” dumped it into the national consciousness. The education establishment at the federal, state and many local levels wrote it into the curriculum while the nation was distracted by the Covid-19 epidemic.
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However, Education Week now sees CRT as a Republican Party power play. “Partisans, in turn, have used it to push schools farther into the national political spotlight.” Republicans, it claims, hope to use the issue to regain control of Congress in the 2022 elections.
This contention is doubly incorrect.
First, Republicans do not want education to be in “the national political spotlight.” Most want schools to be locally run, as they were until Democrats passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. Dismantling the national Department of Education, created in 1979 under President Carter, has been a Republican goal since the Reagan Administration.
Secondly, CRT is itself a spin-off of “Critical Theory”—a product of the “Frankfurt School.” The Frankfurt School was a collection of radical Marxist theorists that began in Frankfurt, Germany. Its members left Germany with the rise of Hitler and joined the faculty of Columbia University. There, it “cross-pollinated” with John Dewey’s Columbia Teacher’s College. Critical Theory and its spawn, CRT, gained an entrée into most American schools of education through this juncture.
If Republicans share any responsibility for the rise of CRT, it is through a sin of omission. They ignored CRT for far too long.
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Contradictions and Common Core
Education Week is correct about one thing—rational Americans care about CRT far more than they cared about Common Core. The methods espoused by Common Core advocates were ineffective and subversive. It failed because parents realized that it was another mutation of the educational practices that have “dumbed down” American youth and wasted much of their time in school.
As bad as Common Core was, CRT is infinitely worse. It puts students into an intellectual dead end where race is the only essential criterion. It promotes uninformed opinion as fact. It argues that success is measured by how quickly one can parley presumed victim status into government benefits and Marxist class struggle.
Critical Race Theory is very real. It threatens American sovereignty, private property and free markets. Those fighting CRT are modern-day heroes.
However, this fight needs a strong infusion of Catholic truth. Holy Mother Church has always taught that God made all people in His Image. Each can rejoice in His Love and will one day face His Justice. The Marxists who inspired CRT can only carry the day by spreading hate, division, and tyranny. This issue isn’t limited to schools or the secular state. It has eternal consequences.
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