Critical Race Theory (CRT) – What is it?
It is the topic that is sucking the air out of school board meeting rooms across the country.
People who are well respected, have the ear of large populations, and wield influence in political circles and social circles have latched on to the phrase and are using it as a scare tactic and a dog whistle. They are using it to intimidate educators and school board members, to rewrite and dictate elementary, middle school, and high school curriculums across the country. And it is an issue that has festered serious disputes in Colorado.
And all without truly understanding what Critical Race Theory is; where it’s actually taught, and fully understanding the difference between Critical Race Theory and Equity (in education).
So, what exactly is Critical Race Theory?
We Googled Critical Race Theory and came across a long list of results, a few of which include:
1) From EdWeek: What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack?
“Critical Race Theory is an academic and legal concept that has been around for four decades. “
Watch the 2:33 minute video. https://youtu.be/z15OKP203G0
2) Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States that seeks to critically examine U.S. law as it intersects with issues of race in the U.S. and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice.
3)And from the Texas Tribune (June 22, 2021) https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/22/texas-critical-race-theory-explained/
“What is critical race theory?
Critical race theory is a discipline, analytical tool and approach that emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s. Scholars took up the ways racial inequity persisted even after “a whole set of landmark civil rights laws and anti-discrimination laws passed” during the civil right movement, Daniel HoSang, professor of ethnicity, race and migration and American studies at Yale University,..”
However, there are those who believe Critical Race Theory to be a “political ideology” and a “…version of cultural Marxism based on race rather than class.” According to the 1776 Project PAC
Critical Race Theory – https://1776projectpac.com/about/
And, as an example of influential people using the term, or as in this case where the governor of Nebraska announced his opposition to Critical Race Theory without really understanding what he was opposing: From the Omaha World Herald, June 2021 https://omaha.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/gov-ricketts-says-he-is-opposed-to-critical-race-theory/article_75734a0e-cdfe-11eb-8164-0764e9d9a0db.html
“…a second caller, Howard of West Point, referred back to the exchange and asked the governor to define his concept of critical race theory.
“So, the critical race theory — and I can’t think of the author right off the top of my head who wrote about this — really had a theory that, at the high level, is one that really starts creating those divisions between us about defining who we are based on race and that sort of thing and really not about how to bring us together as Americans rather than — and dividing us and also having a lot of very socialist-type ideas about how that would be implemented in our state,” Ricketts said, recommending the caller read about it.”
Where is CRT currently being taught in CO Public K-12 Schools?
K-12 public school educators in Colorado will tell you it’s not being taught in their schools/classes.
Per Chalkbeat Jul 9, 2021 (https://www.chalkbeat.org/22525983/map-critical-race-theory-legislation-teaching-racism ):
SB 21-067, HB 19-1192 Colorado
Revisiting state standards
Colorado lawmakers in May passed a bipartisan civics education law that calls for schools to teach certain concepts, including the U.S. and Colorado constitutions and how to participate in elections. It also tasks the state board of education with revising learning standards to include the history, culture, and social contributions of people of color, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people. The state board plans to update standards in 2022
From Denver Post article: Denver metro schools don’t teach critical race theory — but that hasn’t stopped the complaints
“But several of Colorado’s largest school districts, including Denver Public Schools, Douglas County, Cherry Creek and Jefferson County, say …They don’t teach the decades-old academic concept of critical race theory, which is found primarily in higher-level courses and suggests racism and other prejudices are social constructs embedded in legal systems and laws.
“Matt Flores, chief academic officer at Jefferson County Schools, said the same goes for the 1619 Project, a 2019 New York Times initiative that puts a greater focus on the impact of slavery on American history and highlights the contributions of Black Americans.
“Instead, Jefferson County follows the Colorado Academic Standards for social studies, which provide curriculum guidance for the state’s public schools. For example, at the preschool level, schools can provide teaching materials “that support diversity with respect to race, culture, ethnicity, age, ability, and non-stereotyping roles.”
“For high schoolers, the standards say students can “examine and evaluate issues of unity and diversity from Reconstruction to present,” like the “systemic impact of racism and nativism, role of patriotism, expansion of rights and the role of religion.”
CRT & Equity
From the Colorado Commissioner’s Statement on Race and Equity in Education ─ June 10, 2020 (following and in response to the killing of George Floyd)
“In Colorado, we have not yet provided adequate opportunity and access for students from a number of historically underserved backgrounds…to meet their academic potential and gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s economy and thrive in our communities. We know education is a foundational right and one that is a vehicle to a more fair, just and prosperous life. We must do more to concentrate on equity as a foundational construct of our work at CDE; we must do better to empower schools and districts in their efforts to increase access and opportunity and ultimately change the systemic structures leading to inequities in student success.
“While we don’t have all the answers to break these long-held barriers, and it will certainly not be easy, we are committed to learning more and advocating for change to create a more equitable school system where regardless of skin color, students have access to equal opportunities in their lives.”
Which is a great segue into Equity and what the difference is between CRT and Equity. Here, we’d like to share with you the words of Kentucky Commissioner of Education, Jason Glass (also former superintendent of Jeffco Schools). We think Dr. Glass hit the nail on the head.
“…equity and CRT are not the same thing. Equity in education is fundamentally an effort to ensure that all of our students have the supports they need to meet our academic standards and to reach their full potential as students, citizens and human beings. An equity focus in education recognizes that public school students come to us with a variety of backgrounds, needs, supports and experiences, and that we must take those into account when we consider the education of each child.
“When we provide students with disabilities the supports they need to participate in school and access the curriculum, this is equity. When we make sure that our children are not hungry at school by providing them with free or reduced price meals, this is equity. When we make sure that our students who are learning English are provided the supports they need to learn the language and to continue learning in their other subjects, this is equity. When we make sure that our poorest and most rural parts of the state have access to a high quality and representative teacher workforce, this is equity. When we make sure that students who have different levels of support at home can participate in events, trips, sports and extracurricular activities regardless of their backgrounds, this is equity. And when we make sure that none of our students are taught under the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” as President George W. Bush once said, this also is equity.”
CRT, A National Strategy
Mostly extreme right-leaning organizations are behind this effort. To gain some insight, in this blog by Peter Green, check out the screen shots of Twitter posts by Chris Rufo https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2021/08/pa-crt-flap-continues-to-metastasize.html?spref=tw
Here’s a list of many of those organizations –
- No Left Turn in Education
- The Heritage Foundation
- The Legal Insurrection Foundation (Critical Race Training in Education) https://criticalrace.org
- Parents Defending Education (whose president has ties to the CATO Institute, and Independent Women’s Forum) https://defendinged.org/about/
- What Are They Learning (Lukas Rosiak – reporter for The Daily Wire (“The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment.”)
- Chris Rufo, Sr. Fellow with the Manhattan Institute https://www.foxnews.com/politics/legal-coalition-critical-race-theory
- “A network of private attorneys and the conservative organizations are launching a “war” against critical race theory trainings across the country as President Biden rolls back the Trump administration’s efforts on the issue.
- “Led by Discovery Institute researcher Chris Rufo, the network’s stated goal is to bring a complaint before the U.S. Supreme Court and “effectively abolish critical race theory programs from American life.”
- “(The Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth and Poverty is leading the effort with help from the Southeastern Legal Foundation, Upper Midwest Law Center, Jonathan O’Brien with Schoolhouserights.org, The Pivtorak Law Firm, Wally Zimolong of Zimolong, LLC, and Eric Early and Peter Scott of Early, Sullivan, Wright, Gizer, & McCrae.”)
- The Manhattan Institute https://www.manhattan-institute.org
- The Thomas W. Smith Foundation which, according to Judd Legum’s Popular Information, has donated upward of $12.7 million to 21 different organizations between 2017 and 2019 attacking CRT. Including ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) See this link for a list of other organizations. https://popular.info/p/the-obscure-foundation-funding-critical?r=eprf5&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&utm_source=copy
- American Legislative Exchange Council https://www.alec.org/about/ ; https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/controversial-policy-group-casts-long-k-12-shadow/2012/04
Words are being fired off to incite emotions and tempers like: indoctrinate; radical ideology; “spirit murder”; cultural Marxism…
They’ve pounced on this messaging, and seem to be using it as an opportunity to drive a wedge between communities – especially with 2021 being an election year focused on local elections (city councils, mayors, and especially school boards).
Some local examples include:
- Douglas County https://coloradosun.com/2021/06/02/douglas-county-schools-equity-policy/
- Cherry Creek: https://coloradotimesrecorder.com/2021/07/far-right-militia-apparently-attends-co-school-board-meeting-on-critical-race-theory/37813/
- Boulder Valley Schools: https://www.denverpost.com/2021/06/21/critical-race-theory-racism-slavery-republicans/
Why? A traditional strategy by many local/county Colorado GOP organizations has been to use these locally elected positions as stepping stones for building their bench for future, higher state elected offices. As well as a strategy used by extremists who fear CRT will bring about a down-grading of the white upper and middle class.
NBC News – Critical race theory battle invades school boards …
— with help from conservative groups (June 2021)
(Be sure to catch the 4 min video/interview)
“In towns nationwide, well-connected conservative activists, and Fox News, have ramped up the tension in fights over race and equity in schools.”
“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.”
As we return to groups who are behind legislation and promotion of (as well as utilizing it as a tool) the anti-Critical Race Theory, in this Jul 19,2021 article by Sarah Schwartz in Ed Week, Who’s Really Driving Critical Race Theory Legislation –
“The term(Critical Race Theory) refers to a decades-old academic theory that says racism is embedded in laws, policies, and structures—and that as a result, even policies that are officially race-neutral can produce racist outcomes. Among conservatives, the term has become a catch-all for any conversation about historical or present inequities. And it’s been conflated with a host of other initiatives schools have taken up to improve outcomes for students of color, like culturally responsive teaching or restorative justice.”
“Citizens for Renewing America has drafted its own model legislation using the list of divisive concepts, which also bars schools from asking students to support any of the ideas outlined in the 1619 Project. The group has also released a tool kit, which advises on “how to stop Critical Race Theory and reclaim your local school board.”
“Alliance for Free Citizens’ (“an advocacy organization that pursues state legislation and litigation on a slate of issues, including immigration, voting, and transgender students’ participation in sports”)…model legislation also includes a list of “racist or sexist” topics, but is more restrictive than some other bills—banning any materials that promote these concepts, and preventing schools from hosting speakers that hold these views.”
“…the Heritage Foundation…has released its own model legislation and has talked to lawmakers in New Hampshire, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, said Jonathan Butcher, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.”
“In December, Butcher and Rufo led a workshop on combatting critical race theory at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual States and Nation Policy Summit, alongside others from ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, the Woodson Center, and the American Enterprise Institute. ALEC, a conservative think tank known for writing model legislation used by Republican lawmakers, has long influenced K-12 policy—though the group does not have its own model bill language on this issue.
“The event covered “the important role state leaders play in reclaiming education and the American Dream.” Participants from at least 20 state legislatures registered to attend, according to an online list.”
As we researched the topic, the list grew. We encourage you to do your own research – make sure you are using resources you trust. Our concern, the term Critical Race Theory is being misrepresented, misused, and wielded as a tool to divide our communities and classrooms.
Based on the research we’ve done, if more folks are not truly informed about what CRT really is, not only will it be promoted by unsavory characters to distract and deceive voters in local 2021 elections, but it will be captured as a highlighted focus of legislation at our state capital during this upcoming session.
…Stay tuned and stay informed