The real problem with critical race theory

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A growing number of parents of K-12 and high school students across the country have rebelled against the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and “anti-racism” in the country. public and private schools. The reasons for their concern vary and the rhetorical battles can be confusing, but it’s not hard to get to the heart of parents’ objections.

They reject the presentation of our country, its history, its foundation, its institutions and its current laws and practices as pervasive, uniform, deeply and irreparably racist. Nor do they accept the corollary that all white Americans are automatically granted illegitimate ‘white privilege’ – and that they are to blame for all the problems that people of color, especially blacks, face today. hui.

We believe these principles are questionable at best. But in our opinion, the most pernicious aspect of CRT teaching, from an educational point of view, is not its content, but one-sided and dogmatic intolerance from any alternative point of view.

CRT bans all classroom mention, let alone thoughtful discussion, of the full range of ideas about race currently articulated across the political spectrum. (The same is true in American companies and universities, where employees know better than to openly oppose rigid CRT dogmas.) The CRT-endorsed story, in a nutshell, is that white racism is pervasive and explains all racial deficits and disparities. What is not taught – what students are not exposed to, and not even allowed to hear – is the contrary position that persistent racial inequalities are often rooted in cultural differences and behavioral tendencies that are not. all attributable to slavery or Jim Crow, and cannot all be resolved by purging the vague category of “structural racism”.

One of the central elements of the “anti-racist” credo, which conveniently allows the CRT to be presented as unvarnished and indisputable truth, is that any criticism, dispute or argument against it, regardless of its obvious basis , history or logic, is by definition a racist expression of an oppressive “whiteness” system. According to CRT supporters, this system must be totally discredited, dismantled and deregistered, both to achieve “racial justice” and to spare non-whites trauma, exclusion and a “dangerous” environment.

These rhetorical maneuvers make it fallacious and a classic straw man to suggest that the goal of parental anti-CRT efforts is to suppress teaching and learning “about the role of racism in US history.” Virtually nobody opposes it. CRT goes much further by offering unbalanced and inflexible ideas about how race features in our history and today, and by seeking to suppress, tarnish and ban any alternative approach to these thorny issues.

Signs are seen on a bench during a rally against the “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) taught at Loudoun County Government Center schools in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images

The effort to present an ideology about race and to discredit other perspectives as racist, fanatic and baseless is a form of partisan propaganda that is contrary to sound educational practice. But it is also contrary to the principles on which our nation was founded and represents a dangerous attack on the essence of the American way of life.

Parents and teachers must unite to unequivocally reject the illiberal and pernicious notion that repudiation of CRT is in itself an unacceptable form of racism. Emphasizing the diversity of viewpoints and the diffusion of different ways of thinking about race in America is essential to recovering our education system from the noxious grip of CRT advocates and henchmen. It is also essential to uphold the traditions of critical thinking, reasoned speech, academic freedom, and First Amendment protection that are the strengths of our system.

Political efforts are currently underway to ban the teaching of certain ideas, including the one-sided and negative views of America peddled by supporters of the CRT, from the academic programs of public institutions. More effective might be legislative mandates for diversity of viewpoints and evidence-based learning, if only as a reminder that taxpayers expect First Amendment values ​​to be honored by the institutions that they do. ‘they support financially.

A positive outcome of such efforts, supported by popular parent activism committed to our traditional practices and values, would be to ensure that students are regularly exposed to a range of ideas on racial issues in America. While our preference would be for schools to stick to the basics rather than giving valuable teaching time to current events and political debates, any discussion of the complex topic of race in America – it either historical or contemporary – should be balanced by a presentation, or at least an acknowledgment of the different points of view, facts and analysis that underlie them.

We are in the midst of a heated national debate on the role of slavery, discrimination and racism in our country and its conception, as well as the origins and solutions to current racial inequalities. Students should be exposed not only to left-wing ideas on these issues, but also to centrist and right-wing positions, including those advanced by prominent minority thinkers like Jason Riley, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Wilfred Reilly, Glenn Loury, Bob Woodson, John McWhorter, Coleman Hughes, Candace Owens and many more. Students should consider the possibility that high rates of certain destructive behaviors, such as crime and family breakdown, may be more important than white racism in retaining blacks. They need to hear why some critics think cultural reform and self-help, not the endless and indignant pursuit of white racism, might be the best long-term response.

The CRT ideology seeks to suppress, hide and delegitimize these ideas by keeping them out of schools and banning them from educational programs. Many students and parents have never even been exposed to these views and have not taken them as seriously as they deserve. It is time for that to change. This is called an education.

Amy L. Wax is Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Richard Vedder is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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