For those wanting a break from commentary on Afghanistan (except of course, the commentary featured here) or were just wondering where things stand with Critical Race Theory (CRT), its opponents are continuing to drive it out of K-12 schools. Parents have protested at school board meetings; politicians have crafted laws to ban it from schools; and media outlets continue to spread awareness of CRT’s presence in so many organizations.
Moreover, this is not a partisan phenomenon. As Politico reported a few week ago, even many Democrat voters have expressed alarm at the party’s promotion of CRT.
Naturally, this has upset those on the left, like Chauncey DeVega, who can only assume that opponents of CRT must be racist white supremacists seeking power, asserting that “‘Critical race theory’ is a way for right-wing politicians and other opinion leaders to channel and leverage [white supremacist] energy to advance their goals.”
Besides being unfairly prejudiced and poorly reasoned, this argument misses the main issue with Critical Race Theory: it is directly antithetical to learning.
Few CRT defenders seem to consider what learning actually is. If they did, they would understand that learning is a process of acquiring new ideas and cognitive skills through comprehension, application, and analysis.
As such, learning takes work, and work requires motivation. Normally, students do this work because they believe in the value of learning as well as the prospect of using their learning to succeed in the world and find meaning in their lives.
But, far from being a “lens” or alternative perspective, CRT destroys this motivation. It disparages learning as “whiteness” and suggests that a person’s personal success is mostly determined by their race, not their work.
Considering the many challenges that confront K-12 students today, it is already hard enough to motivate them to do the work of learning. We teachers must contend with anxious young people who are addicted to their screens and lack proper context for radical perspectives. By introducing concepts from CRT, this will worsen the situation by tempting students into thinking that their problems stem from systemic racism, not from their lack of knowledge or effort.
Confronted with this idea, how is a student supposed to continue working hard at school? More likely, will they will shut down completely and thereby perpetuate the unequal outcomes between racial groups—the very problem CRT supposedly addresses.
After all, if they are white, their success is ensured—though it is only fair to express some guilt about this. If they are not white, then their failure is the result of white supremacists imposing racist structures designed to hold down minorities—which leaves them no choice but to become activists and demand reparations.
In this way, CRT-influenced instruction teaches kids how to feel rather than think or do anything useful. It leaves unsuspecting graduates ignorant and angry. It is a poisonous narrative that produces incompetent workers, uninformed voters, and misguided activists—three types that today’s world doesn’t need right now.
Furthermore, there’s the other problem of CRT being a complete lie. It’s based on weak logic and paranoia. Students have nothing to gain from it, and plenty to lose. As fellow teacher-writer Jeremy Adams declares at the end of his book Hollowed Out, “if you teach young Americans that there is nothing they can do to improve themselves, then you have lied to them.”
The push against CRT should really be seen as a push for restoring the original purpose of schooling: making kids competent, thoughtful, and responsible. Not only will this help them succeed in today’s world, it will also make them happier and more connected with their fellow Americans. Depending on the underlying philosophy guiding a school, the learning that happens in it can be a powerful tool for good or burden that becomes too heavy to lift.