Critical Race Theory (CRT). Colonialism. Racism. Slavery. What do all these things have in common? They’re apparently buzz words that have a small but loud minority of parents, school board, and community members alike super hot and bothered.
The crazy thing about CRT is that it is a theoretical framework that’s actually been around for like decades, y’all. I’m talking like four decades.
According to Education Week, CRT supports that “Race is a social construct, and racism is not just product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.” Now I’m not a graduate student or lawyer (which is usually where CRT framework is covered, btw), but that sure doesn’t sound like what some conservatives would have you believe.
No, it doesn’t mean all white people are big bad racists in the core of their soul, nor does it mean you should hate America. All it really means is that teachers will continue to educate your children about the basic principles of humanity. I know, truly groundbreaking. I’ll assume if you’ve made it this far, you aren’t offended or sensitive to discussions on equity, equality, and understanding. If you are, please stop reading here. There is no sense in getting your knickers in a twist over these words.
Scary Mommy spoke in depth with a white, high school AP History teacher from the Midwest who has been in education for seven years — and had a lot to say about all the hype surrounding CRT. While no direction has formally been given by his school district, he and many other teachers at his school are actively finding ways to keep understanding, empathy, and education (uncomfortable or not) at the forefront of their lesson plans.
“We’ve always tried to incorporate equity, equality, and basic understanding that everyone has had different experiences in life. Unfortunately, many of those experiences are based on a system that was not built on those same characteristics. CRT has become such a hot-button issue, but the reality is, CRT is a theoretical framework that is usually taught in grad-level courses. As an AP high school history teacher, I am simply making my students aware of the term CRT because it might be asked of them on exams used to grant college-level credit.”
See y’all, you were panicking for nothing. CRT isn’t actually being taught in elementary, middle, and high schools around the country. Still, just the mention of those three words has many a parent, school board member, or even just a community member in quite the tailspin. This teacher describes the pushback he personally received since the end of this past school year.
“The history department received a call, which I fielded, from an anonymous community member. They asked if our school was just teaching 1619 or if we were still teaching the important dates, like 1776 and 1787. I assured the caller that, of course, we cover those dates.
But we also cover other important dates like Juneteenth, 1948, and generally all of the 1950s and 60s. I asked for their name, not to call them out, but to invite them to attend a class. We’re all about our community being involved in our public school education, but they refused. They wished to only be known as a concerned taxpayer.”
For those who aren’t familiar, some people (aka, the very conservative of all the conservatives) believe the 1619 project is “A racially divisive and revisionist account of history that encourages the children who are exposed to it to hate their own country” according to bills introduced by Iowa and Arkansas, per an Education Week article. But what is it actually?
In the same article, the New York Times describes the project as “An initiative that aims to reframe U.S. history by putting the legacy of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at its center.” Scary Mommy asked this teacher to break that down a little bit further.
“A very simplified version on this would be Thomas Jefferson. He was a founding father and a president, but, he was also a slave owner. We aren’t saying he was a horrible person who did not contribute great things to the building of our country. However, we are acknowledging those contributions were made from the perspective of a white man in a position of power, who thought it was okay to own another human being as a slave because of the color of their skin.”
Just because we are examining things that have happened through a critical lens doesn’t mean we’re saying we hate America. This isn’t about flinging accusations. It’s about encouraging education.
Unfortunately, not only are lawmakers in some states merely using strong (read: inaccurate) verbiage to dissuade teachers from educating on subjects related to CRT, they’re straight up making it — illegal? Recently on a national call for teachers teaching AP classes, they were advised that legally, in some states, they cannot teach on (or mention) CRT. WTAF? Additionally, students would be allowed to video record any teacher in the act. But, wait for it. The cherry on top of this clusterfuck — the footage could be used in disciplinary hearings.
All of this insanity doesn’t seem to faze this teacher. He says he will continue upholding his first and foremost commitment, which is to teach all of his students all of the history. Even when it can be uncomfortable.
“You know, I get it. I’m a white man who grew up in a diverse inner-city. These concepts and conversations have always been a part of my life, so I’ve had many more years to work through the uncomfortable feelings they can invoke. I ended up teaching in a primarily white Christian community, far less diverse than what I’ve always known. My hope is for these young minds (and their parents and community) to realize the reality of our history doesn’t diminish the great things we’ve done.”
So there you have it, folks. Un-clutch your pearls and put down the battering ram. Liberal agendas and education are not coming to corrupt the next generation. Let your children’s educators do what they feel called to do. Teach them to think critically with empathy and an open mind – and don’t be opposed to them learning the truth.
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