The combustible combination of race, equity and education is currently fueling late-night school board meetings across the Colorado Front Range (and I'm sure many other areas), where parents, teachers and students are sounding off about a phrase and concept that’s suddenly everywhere in the U.S.: critical race theory.
The loudest, most vitriolic Colo. debate is in Douglas County, where a newly adopted “equity policy” has set off a firestorm of accusations that the 67,000-student, mostly white district south of Denver is embracing the controversial theory. A similar debate erupted last month at a Cherry Creek School District board meeting.
Here in Colorado Springs, leaders of School District 49 recently decided to craft a resolution that’ll be voted on later this summer to ban teaching of the controversial theory — following in the footsteps of statewide bans in Florida, Arkansas and Idaho. But let's back up for a moment and get a collective grip on reality: "critical race theory" at K-12 level is merely a scare term circulated by Rightist freaks to stir up the culture war (and racial anxiety) in advance of the 2022 mid -terms. .
At the center of this phantom political maelstrom is an imp named Christopher Rufo, a conservative filmmaker and commentator recently profiled in The New Yorker as the architect behind turning critical race theory into a potent political weapon. While lambasting the “elites” for “seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race,” Rufo concluded that appropriating the left’s own terminology could make critical race theory “the perfect villain.”
In other words, take a neutral academic term, and tar it with Reep agitprop to convert it into a toxic meme. Then spread it far and wide to as many susceptible Caucasian brains as you can, using media like FOX, OAN, and WSJ op-eds . The result? Like dogs drawn to a particular whistle, middle class whites have worked themselves into a lather as animus toward the concept has spread like the Delta variant. According to Chalkbeat’s state-by-state analysis, 27 states have passed or are looking to pass laws limiting the use of critical race theory at the K-12 level.
But all the parents in the K-12 education spectrum are going ballistic over an artificial dog whistle. How so? Well, CRT (for short), isn't even taught coherently as a proper course at K-12 levels. It's taught at university and most often at upper undergrad or graduate level. Thus, saying you want to ban teaching critical race theory in K-12 is roughly equivalent to saying you want to ban space plasma physics in K-12. Yes, some students may be learning some basics about physics (i.e. in assembling simple electrical circuits), but that’s very different from saying that your seventh-grade science teacher is teaching advanced space plasma physics.
So what has happened? Well, Rufo and his ilk have learned human brains bear a defect - a "glitch" if you will - in the amygdala, that can be excited into prolonged agitation via the right verbal stimulus. Select the stimulus then tar it with misinformation, bunkum and propaganda - then sit back and watch as whole swaths of the U.S. - mainly in red states- become unhinged. It's easy to do especially in our already politically polarized era. But it sets up yet another fracture point in a nation already rent asunder by the 2020 election, an insurrection and Trump.
Actual critical race theory mainly originated with African -American scholar Derrick Bell and associates including: Alan Freeman, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Cheryl Harris, Charles R. Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia J. Williams. As noted in Wikipedia: the basic tenets of CRT include that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing and often subtle social and institutional dynamics rather than explicit and intentional prejudices on the part of individuals. In other words, racism is embedded in the cultural and social milieu not merely in individual manifestations. Critical race theory says institutions like the criminal justice or education systems have systemic failures — like the intentional segregation, or “redlining,” of neighborhoods across the country. These are also built into the way these work.
Portions of CRT also come from the Frankfurt School’s critical theory, which was developed by Jewish academics in Germany during the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. Critical theory suggests political or societal institutions create and sustain problems like poverty or hunger. In Hitler's Germany and Third Reich Justice system Jewish suffering was institutionalized so it made sense for CRT scholars to employ many of the same approaches. But again, none of this will be found to be taught as a coherent subject at K-12. It is merely being used by cynical Rightists to try to scare middle class whites into more reactionary behavior.
If you have a K-12 school kid don't get looped into the CRT hysteria by the Right's maniacs and culture warriors. Be smarter than to fall for their squealing dog whistles. On the other hand, be open to justifiable corrections of history - such as about Christopher Columbus, e.g.
by Thom Hartmann | July 8, 2021 - 8:00am | permalink
by Henry Giroux | July 8, 2021 - 6:45am | permalink
I'm a Scholar of Critical Race Theory — Here's the Reality about It Behind the Conservative Moral Panic