Courtrooms and local school board meetings are setting up as the battleground for a major cultural conflict between conservatives, parents, teachers, and social justice activists on controversial critical race theory.
According to the Britanica website, critical race theory is an “intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color.”
Although it has been a staple of law schools since the 1970s, the theory has come to the education mainstream due to changes in the way some view gender and items like The New York Times “1619 Project,” which claims the country’s founding was based more in the slave trade and “white supremacy” more than an effort to create an egalitarian society.
Educators and the unions that represent them argue these “darker” moments of American history have been whitewashed in the past and need to be taught to present the most accurate picture of the country.
Opponents, including conservatives and newly formed parent organizations, say the material is too divisive and ends up indoctrinating children to a more far left-wing view of America.
Suburban districts, like Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, have gained national prominence following contentious board of education meetings with advocates on both sides speaking out.
Parents and others are seeking the recall of board members for absorbing the controversial theory into the district’s policies and curriculum, while the board denies it is teaching the theory to students.
Several states are currently considering legislation to ban teaching the theory or its application in classrooms throughout the country.
Recently, American Federation of Teachers Union President Randi Weingarten compared the battle to the 1925 “Scopes Trial” where a teacher was tried for teaching evolution to students in Tennessee.
“We’re looking at court actions because these laws conflict with standards and our licensure requirements and our professional obligations,” Weingarten, leader of the country’s second largest teacher’s union, said.
She denied members of her union are teaching the theory.
“Let’s be clear: critical race theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools,” she said. “It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists — and whether it has an effect on law and public policy. But culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as CRT to try to make it toxic. They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.”
Delegates from the largest union, the National Education Association, said they would expand teaching “anti-racism and diversity” in classrooms, and said it has set aside several million dollars to defend members in court for teaching “accurate” history.
It is also asking members to “fight back” against the anti-critical race theory movement, saying in a statement that “it is reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed” by critical race theory.
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