Studying how race has affected human history will not poison young minds. Discussing how the present is shaped by the past is not some communist plot. Everyone losing their minds over critical race theory should stop believing nonsense.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump used an executive order to try to stop federal contractors from training people about diversity or inclusion. The order painted those activities as “divisive.”
This spring, parents and school officials in Orange County, Calif., are having contentious battles over implementation of the state’s new curriculum guidelines. A letter-writing campaign claimed they would teach children “hate for America and everything America stands for.”
These hysterics, along with conservative media, have seized critical race theory as a rallying cry, saying it is militant, anti-Western and opposed to “freedom.”
According to the American Bar Association, the phrase “critical race theory” was developed as a kind of shorthand describing how entities should legally understand diversity or inclusion training.
Race is a social construct, a way of defining people. That construct did not even exist until Europeans began exploring places where people didn’t look like them and tried to categorize what they had seen.
Race, like gender and sexual orientation, has a significant effect on both individual and group experiences. Being American is both the same and different for every resident of this country. Male or female, black or brown or white, gay or transgender or straight, young or old, rural or urban, and all the permutations in between have an effect.
“The country is going through this racial reckoning, and part of that racial reckoning is understanding our history,” said Daniel Solorzano, director of the Center for Critical Race Studies in Education at UCLA.
In academia, “critical” means exercising careful evaluation, as in critical thinking. “Theory” refers to something offered as an explanation. Thus, critical race theory refers to course material that presents students with possible explanations for the effects of race on American life and invites them to evaluate those explanations.
Conservatives are using the term to scare people and attack educators and education policy makers. State legislatures are using it to bludgeon public schools into limiting what students will learn.
Treating the phrase “critical race theory” as if it were a threat is a ridiculous claim that will only hurt America’s students.
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