This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Critical Race Theory in Schools, Ideas for Civic Engagement from ERN, and Other Stories You Don’t Want to Miss.
Critical Race Theory in Schools
Connecticut is feeling the reverberations of a national movement to renounce the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) curricula in K-12 public schools. Just this month, for example, Senator Rob Sampson (R-District 16) failed to pass an amendment prohibiting schools in Connecticut from teaching “divisive content” that makes any student feel guilt on account of his or her race. Last week, a forum in Guilford focused on opposing the use of CRT in schools. And lawn signs appearing in Greenwich and other communities demand, “ban critical race theory.” For their part, the Guilford and Greenwich superintendents have each tried to assure parents that CRT is not a part of their district’s curricula. But just what is CRT, and why is there a campaign to keep it out of the classrooms?
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) hosted an #EdEquityTalks webinar featuring Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the co-founders of the field of CRT, earlier this month. It provides a brief overview of CRT, which is a body of scholarship that analyzes law and policy through the lens of discrimination, unequal opportunity, and power dynamics. CRT considers racism to be embedded in societal structures and emphasizes change within systems and institutions, rather than focusing on individual biases. By most definitions, it’s an academic theory, not a K-12 curriculum. In the webinar, Professor Crenshaw also observes that—throughout history—the frame of the conversation about racial oppression has been controlled by defenders of the status quo: enslaved people were not allowed to learn to read; abolitionist literature was criminalized; the civil rights movement was described as reverse discrimination ; and integration was framed as harmful to white children. This new “anti-anti-racism” discourse claiming to repudiate the inclusion of CRT curricula in K-12 classrooms—Crenshaw argues—is today’s example of an ongoing power struggle to control the narrative about race in America.
On Monday, Michelle Goldberg's New York Times opinion argued that the debate over CRT in schools is just the latest catchall for conservative fearmongering about liberal “wokeness” and the national reckoning regarding racial justice. Eugene Robinson for the Washington Post similarly opines that the alarmist anti-CRT trend is about driving up turnout for the midterm elections by rallying white voters who are threatened by the facts of America's racial history. In effect, if citizens are worrying about their children being exposed to critical race theory in their public schools, then somebody might be pushing their buttons on purpose.
🇺🇸 Ideas for Civic Engagement
In honor of 4th of July weekend, we recommend this report by our national affiliate, Education Reform Now—which explores four key strategies to improve the quality and quantity of civic learning and engagement for American students: (1) incorporating active civic education into state academic standards; (2) service learning through community projects that complement academic curricula; (3) national and community service experiences to provide hands-on participation; and (4) leading first-time voters through the voting process. Read it here.