“One could be forgiven for imagining that the media had set out to cover the CRT debate in a manner that would aggravate a polarized nation, fuel conservative distrust, and turn a principled debate into a food fight.”
This fundamental conclusion is from a report by the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) director of education policy, Frederick M. Hess, titled Media’s Misleading Portrayal of the Fight over Critical Race Theory.
An Ongoing Controversy
At first, Critical Race Theory (CRT) seems so absurd, so inherently biased that it is hard to believe that anyone takes it seriously.
When Ibram X. Kendi says, “There is no such thing as a not-racist idea,” he is simplistic. He and his clique proclaim themselves as the sole arbiters of virtue. The collective experience of humanity since creation, he argues, is a mire of inexorable vice. Robin DiAngelo’s claim that “White identity is inherently racist” contradicts the evidence of racial harmony promoted by the Church and Christian civilization.
The basic premises of CRT are so faulty that there are only three groups of people who could support it—the Marxist “true believers” who want to radicalize America, those who make money off of it (or hope to) and those who don’t know anything about it.
The nation’s press is trying to ensure that the third group is as large as possible.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Finding an exact definition of CRT is difficult. In July 2021, the Columbia News, the in-house newspaper of Columbia University, posted an article titled, “What is Critical Race Theory, and Why is Everyone Talking About It?” The article mentions that three of the “pioneers” of CRT are on Columbia’s faculty. Indeed, if anyone has a definition, it should be here.
Alas, no. The article talks about CRT’s enemies and their tactics. It then claims that CRT is important and necessary. It summarizes the history of CRT. The Columbia scholars cite reasons that the detractors are mistaken.
The closest that the article ever comes to providing a workable definition of CRT is:
“Although the scholarship differs in emphasis and discipline, it is united by an interest in understanding and rectifying the ways in which a regime of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color in America has had an impact on the relationship between social structure and professed ideals such as ‘the rule of law’ and ‘equal protection.’”
Making Confusion into a Weapon
Such confusion, sometimes called “weaponized ambiguity,” is deliberate. With no universally accepted definition, no one can objectively detect CRT’s presence or absence in a school’s curriculum. That fact enables CRT supporters to claim that opponents suffer mass hallucination, seeing CRT where it does not exist, as they did in the recent Virginia governor’s election.
That lack of a definition makes Mr. Hess’s work exposing this tactic essential.
Mr. Hess’s method was simple but must have been tedious. He read every CRT news article (as opposed to editorials) in four major national newspapers, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, from September 1, 2020, to August 31, 2021. He also read all of the coverage of CRT in the most prominent paper devoted to news of the world of education, Education Week, and two education news websites, the 74 and Chalkbeat. Overall, Mr. Hess reviewed 91 articles—thirty-four in the general audience newspapers and fifty-seven from the educational press.
So, what did these articles say about CRT? As it turns out, not much. Fewer than five of the pieces mentioned that CRT proponents decry the ideas of “universal values” and “objective knowledge” as examples of “toxic whiteness.” Only a little more than ten percent mentioned that CRT claims that only racists proclaim “color blindness”—treating members of all races in the same way.
Unnecessary and Harmful
Of course, none mentioned that the primary determiner of Western Culture, the Catholic Church, has promoted the idea of universal human dignity for over two thousand years. The Church has gone to every continent, making believers, priests and bishops of all races.
On the other hand, a clear majority of the articles said that CRT teaches that “the US was founded on racism/is a racist country.” All of them promoted CRT as a way of “discussing racism.”
There is no need to promote discussions of racism and slavery. Those discussions are happening now and have been for at least the last half-century.
For example, the 1956 first edition of The American Pageant, a still popular upper-level text, emphasizes the date that CRT advocates imply has been ignored. “In 1619—a fateful date in American History—what was probably a Dutch warship appeared off Jamestown and sold some twenty Africans.” In this sixty-five-year-old text, the index has 23 entries for “Slavery,” five for “Slave trade” has five, and five more for “Slave.” The author devotes Chapter 19 to “The South and the Slavery Controversy.”
Yet, most of the above-mentioned articles leave readers thinking that discussions of slavery are absent from the education system. Only CRT, they insist, can fix this imaginary problem.
Removing Parents from the Schools
Most of the articles promote another fallacy. They promote the idea that CRT opponents are authoritarians preventing discussions of racism.
This attitude can be seen in many headlines of the articles that Mr. Hess read, including Education Week’s “’A Very McCarthyism Feel’: Idaho Teachers Say Indoctrination Task Force Stokes Fear” and “Four States Have Placed Limits on How Teachers Can Discuss Race. More May Follow.”
The patterns that Mr. Hess describes are so prominent that it has to be deliberate. The proponents of CRT know that its premises are so unpopular that any honest discussion would lead to its rejection. Therefore, the truth must be concealed. The message to parents behind this discussion appears to be: “Trust us. We know best. Send your children to us, and we will teach them.”
Saving Children from CRT
The forces behind CRT care nothing about teaching children. Some local officials and teachers might be well-meaning but uninformed. However, the leadership of this movement has a more dangerous goal—indoctrination. They have arrived at a version of American History that serves their radical ends, and they are pushing it as far as it can go.
Those ideologues want to dismiss parents from any genuine part in educating their children. At the same time, administrators harass teachers who won’t adopt CRT-inspired standards.
The Virginia elections show that it is time to press the attack to reclaim America’s schools. Parents must not let a couple of electoral victories convince them that all is well once again. It took a century for the progressives to move the schools to their current sorry state. It will take years of concerted effort to get rid of them.
Photo Credit: © clsdesign – stock.adobe.com