A Welcome Backlash against Critical Race Theory

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Recent weeks have brought welcome pushback against the spread of critical race theory (CRT) and related dogmas of division in our nation’s schools.

Contrary to what many of CRT’s advocates often claim, the theory is about more than just teaching kids to “think critically” about the role that race has played in American history. It’s the conceptual apparatus of a self-avowedly activist political movement seeking to renovate the American social order from root to branch using state power.

CRT is a subdiscipline of the broader academic school of critical theory. According to one of critical theory’s pioneers, the German thinker Max Horkheimer, a theory is critical to the extent that it helps “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” and “to create a world which satisfies” their “needs and powers.”

As CRT’s most recognized proponent, Ibram X. Kendi, puts it:

The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. . . . The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.

In practice, CRT leads to rank racialism. As Christopher Caldwell noted in his recent cover story for National Review, Kendi helped lead the opposition against the selection process for the elite Boston Latin School, the Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Relying heavily on testing, the schools had been giving a disproportionate number of their 205 seats to Asian applicants. Caldwell reported that, “With COVID as a pretext, equity advocates set up a new system to fill the spots based on zip codes and grades, a plan that will result in a 24 percent reduction in Asians, an 18 percent reduction in whites, a 50 percent increase in blacks, and a 14 percent increase in Hispanics.”

CRT, the philosophy motivating such discriminatory actions, shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the nation’s schools. Fortunately, some communities and elected officials are acting to prevent its insinuation into curricula.

Governor Brad Little of Idaho has now signed a bill into law prohibiting public schools, including public universities, from teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior” — a teaching that the bill explicitly links to “critical race theory.” The bill, HB 377, also prohibits lessons arguing that “individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin,” essentially lifting the weed of CRT pedagogy out at the root.

Meanwhile, there have been two encouraging developments in the Lone Star State. In a Southlake school-board election, candidates opposing the teaching of CRT in schools won in a landslide, garnering 70 percent of the vote. The two open school-board seats will now be held by Hannah Smith, a local lawyer who clerked for Justice Thomas, and Cameron Bryan, a civil engineer who coaches youth football. Conservatives opposed to CRT instruction also won the mayoral race in Southlake and two city-council races — all by nearly 40 points.

In addition to the grassroots response to CRT schooling in Southlake, HB 3979 and its companion bill SB 2202 are making their way through the Texas state legislature. Both bills block the teaching of critical race theory in schools. As it’s currently drafted, HB 3979 overcorrects by placing excessive restrictions on the ability of teachers to discuss matters of race and racism at all in the classroom. However, an amended form of the bill that allows for appropriate academic discussion in schools of the role of racism in American history would be worthy of universal support.

We hope this is just the beginning of the efforts to protect schools from this noxious ideology. There’s obviously a place in American education for sober reflection and instruction about the legacy of racism in the United States, but CRT is not that — or anything that should be taught to our kids.


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