About 50 residents, students, parents and educators demonstrated in favor of Critical Race Theory ahead of the Cobb Board of Education’s monthly meeting Thursday afternoon in Cobb County, Georgia. (Credit: Arielle Robinson, Cobb County Courier)
♦ What the hysteria over critical race theory is really all about by Fabiola Cineas, Vox
Watching the news or browsing social media, it would be easy to think that critical race theory is a complicated, controversial, or new idea.
But critical race theory, created four decades ago by legal scholars, is an academic framework for examining how racism is embedded in America’s laws and institutions. It is just now receiving widespread attention because it has morphed into a catchall category, one used by Republicans who want to ban anti-racist teachings and trainings in classrooms and workplaces across the country.
Over the past six months, Republicans in more than two dozen states have proposed bills that aim to stymie educational discussions about race, racism, and systemic oppression in the US — potentially eliminating the conversations altogether.
It all began as racial justice protests took off across the country in the summer of 2020 and a Fox News story fashioned critical race theory as a boogeyman. Though the school of thought had been relatively obscure outside of academia, a conservative campaign was launched against it, and by September, then-President Donald Trump had signed an executive order restricting implicit bias and diversity trainings by government agencies. His exit from office didn’t put an end to the assault on critical race theory, though — it only amplified it.
By January, GOP lawmakers began quietly drafting and introducing bills that mirrored one another in an effort to stop schools from teaching about racism or any topics that confront America’s history of racial and gender oppression. While they don’t all name critical race theory — which in and of itself is not being taught in many, if any, K-12 schools — the new state bills rest on the same foundation: the desire to broadly stop teaching and training on “divisive concepts.”
This page will be updated when new information becomes available. As of August 26, 27 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis. Twelve states have enacted these bans, either through legislation or other avenues.
♦ How a conservative activist invented the conflict over critical race theory by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker
As [Christopher] Rufo eventually came to see it, conservatives engaged in the culture war had been fighting against the same progressive racial ideology since late in the Obama years, without ever being able to describe it effectively. “We’ve needed new language for these issues,” Rufo told me, when I first wrote to him, late in May. “ ‘Political correctness’ is a dated term and, more importantly, doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that elites are enforcing a set of manners and cultural limits, they’re seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race, It’s much more invasive than mere ‘correctness,’ which is a mechanism of social control, but not the heart of what’s happening. The other frames are wrong, too: ‘cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain,” Rufo wrote.
♦ State GOP lawmakers try to limit teaching about race, racism by Bryan Anderson, Associated Press
Kimberlé Crenshaw, executive director of the African American Policy Forum, was among those who helped popularize critical race theory in the 1970s and 1980s as a response to what she and others felt was a lack of progress following passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
She said Republicans are twisting the concept to inflame racial tensions and motivate their base of mostly white supporters.
“This is a 2022 strategy to weaponize white insecurity, to mobilize ideas that have been mobilized again and again throughout history, using a concept or set of ideas that they can convince people is the new boogeyman,” Crenshaw said.
The debate over critical race theory spiraled into death threats, harassment and an arrest in a Virginia school district. NBC News’ Priscilla Thompson spoke with the school board’s chairwoman who said the debate is politically motivated.
♦ The War on History Is a War on Democracy — The New York Times
Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of History at Yale University and the author of histories of political atrocity such as “Bloodlands” and “Black Earth.” His most recent book is “Our Malady.” In his recent essay, he lays out the history of "a growing international body of what are called 'memory laws': government actions designed to guide public interpretation of the past," that are cause for concern.
Memory laws started out as a noble idea and "generally [were] designed to protect the truth about victim groups. ...The most important example, passed in West Germany in 1985, criminalized Holocaust denial. Perhaps unsurprisingly, other countries followed that precedent, and banned the denial of other historical atrocities."
Jeff Porter, superintendent of a wealthy suburban school district in Maine, had no idea that his community was about to become part of a national battle when in the summer of 2020 a father began accusing the district of trying to “indoctrinate” his children by teaching critical race theory.
To Porter, the issue was straightforward: The district had denounced white supremacy in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police, but did not teach critical race theory, the academic study of racism’s pervasive impact.
But the parent, Shawn McBreairty, grew increasingly disgruntled and soon connected with No Left Turn in Education, a rapidly growing national group that supports parents as they fight against lessons on systemic racism. That action turned a heated conflict with the school board into one that soon drew national attention, mobilized by a new, increasingly coordinated movement with the backing of major conservative organizations and media outlets.
It’s a movement that has amped up grassroots parental organizing around the country, bringing the lens and stakes of national politics — along with the playbook of seasoned GOP activists — to school boards.
“I was very naïve at the beginning of the year,” Porter said. “I thought it was a concerned parent who had taken it a little too far. I didn't understand this until recently, but these were tactics from national organizations to discredit the entire district.”
♦ Ask the Expert: What is critical race theory and why is it under attack in our schools? — Michigan State University Today
"Ask the Expert" articles provide information and insights from MSU scientists, researchers and scholars about national and global issues, complex research and general-interest subjects based on their areas of academic expertise and study. They may feature historical information, background, research findings, or offer tips.
Michigan joins other states that have introduced legislation that would sharply limit classroom discussions on how race and racism have shaped American history.
Dorinda Carter Andrews, professor and chairperson, Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University’s College of Education, said this is an ill-formed conflation, and answers other questions about critical race theory.
♦ Four states have placed legal limits on how teachers can discuss race. More may follow by Sarah Schwartz, EdWeek
Four states have now passed legislation that would limit how teachers can discuss racism, sexism, and other controversial issues. It’s Republican lawmakers’ latest effort to rein in the approach to subjects they claim are divisive and inappropriate.
♦ A $5 Million Fine for Classroom Discussions on Race? In Tennessee, This Is the New Reality by Eesha Penharkar, EdWeek
Tennessee aims to levy fines starting at $1 million and rising to $5 million on school districts each time one of their teachers is found to have “knowingly violated” state restrictions on classroom discussions about systemic racism, white privilege, and sexism, according to guidance proposed by the state’s department of education late last week.
♦ Creating identity safe spaces for children and adults of all backgrounds by Becki Cohn-Vargas
When Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he aspired to a time when skin color did not matter. Yet, he recognized that simply by ignoring differences, the path to that time would never occur.
♦ “I wanted to teach differently than I had been taught”: How some Texas educators practice anti-racist teaching - by Isabella Zhou, Texas Tribune
But as those debates rage on, some teachers across disciplines are pressing on with approaches to teaching that are influenced by forms of critical theory — such as critical race theory. These approaches look very different from how Republicans characterize it, they say.
Far from trying to incur guilt in white students or establish racial superiority, they say, anti-racist teaching efforts are about affirming and empowering all students, in light of their race, class and all aspects of identity, to be critical thinkers and agents of their own learning — and to make sense of themselves, their communities and their society in complex ways.
♦ Teachers across the country pledge to 'Teach the Truth' - Zinn Education Project
Teachers and allies across the country pledged to teach the truth during the June 12 Day of Action.
They made their pledges at historic sites to provide examples of the history that teachers would be required to lie about or omit if the GOP anti-history bills become law.
Teachers organized these #TeachTruth events on top of teaching at the end of a challenging school year. We share here the national news coverage, followed by photos, stories, and local news coverage listed alphabetically by state or territory.
♦ Connect with colleagues to counter critical race theory critics by Larry Ferlazzo, EdWeek
A number of states have either passed or are considering legislation that would ban critical race theory and, in some cases, many types of lessons that teach about systemic racism. Three educators respond.
Guides to Having More Productive Discussions
♦ How you can turn the critical race theory controversy into a useful dialogue by David Campt, The Dialogue Company
The recent controversy about Critical Race Theory (CRT) strikes some people as a manufactured controversy, intentionally created to reverse recent gains in the anti-racism movement; while others see it as a welcomed pushback against arguable excesses by the anti-racism community that have been ignored for too long. Certainly there are good reasons for differences in people’s reactions. On the one hand, the primary initiator behind this anti-CRT movement has been explicit about his efforts as trying to make CRT - a set of concepts taught in law school - into a pernicious term, and then associating all manner of cultural insanities into that brand that has purposely been made toxic. Moreover, conservative-minded community organizers are arming parents – and operatives – with extensive manuals that give them specific strategies that help them create viral moments at local school board meetings.
On the other hand, it can be disquieting to learn that 3rd graders, who clearly are only at the start of their journey toward identity formation, are being guided to label themselves “oppressor” and “oppressed” based on a combination of their racial and class privilege.
Despite the arguably cynical origins of this debate, it may be useful to look at the critical race theory controversy as a useful dialogue opportunity, especially if exchanges can be productively reframed. In 2018, the portion of US school children who are white dipped below 50 percent for the first time in the nation’s history. This being the case, it is highly appropriate for the nation and your local community to have a conversation about the question: What is a good and age-appropriate anti-racist education?
♦ Critical race theory hysteria overshadows the importance of teaching kids about racism by Jania Hoover, an 11th grade teacher
I’ve taught in both majority-Black and majority-white classrooms. One trait that’s the same in both is that parents send their kids to school with the hope that their kids will be prepared for a better life in the future. Certain state legislators and pundits are exploiting that desire and have manufactured a crisis surrounding CRT precisely because most people do not know what it is. The goal is to scare parents, who will then scare teachers away from discussing an accurate representation of past events in the US. But the truth is, we should be having these conversations about racism and the unvarnished truth about our nation’s past with our students. A well-meaning parent should want their children to understand CRT, American exceptionalism, as well as other frameworks they can use to understand American society.
Teaching the kids the unsavory realities of US history will not teach them to hate this country. As a Black woman, and a great-great-great-great granddaughter of at least one enslaved person, I grew up with a clear understanding that our country’s past wasn’t all good, for all people, all the time. It’s actually because of this that I’ve made it my life’s work to help young people understand history so that they can create a better future. I might have given up on most people my age and older, but the brilliance I see in my classrooms still gives me hope.