What the heck is all the fuss about related to Critical Race Theory (CRT) legislation? I’ve read articles where teachers and others are complaining that the legislation ties the teacher’s hands and even bans them from teaching history or at least certain aspects of history. Some have even complained they won’t be able to teach Critical Race Theory to their students.
Until a few years ago I had never actually read a legislative bill. Like most people, I took the media’s word for what bills, especially education related ones, were about and the potential impact. At some point I started reading select bills and even analyzing some.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about CRT legislation in a number of states. The media accounts and what people were saying on both sides of the issue aroused my curiosity. As a result, I read bills from a number of states including ones from Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. I found it interesting that bills for those six states included some identical wording. That got me curious as to where that wording came from. I found it in the Presidential Executive Order 13950 of September 22, 2020 titled Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. It is interesting to note Critical Race Theory is never mentioned in the Executive Order and is not mentioned in most state legislative bills.
The following are found in the Executive Order. With the exception of Idaho, most of the other six states included most, if not all, of these items in their legislation as things not to be taught.
One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
The state or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist;
An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex;
Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race; or
The term “divisive concept” includes any other form of race or sex stereotyping or any other form of race or sex scapegoating;
Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.
Are these things people want taught to students across the country? I would like to think not. It makes me wonder if people who are against these legislative bills have actually read them or if they are simply reacting to the media hype.
Unlike people who are complaining about this, I fail to see how this prevents or bans the teaching of history. Does this ban or prevent teaching about the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, the civil rights movement, any aspect of American history, the Holocaust, or the contributions to our country of any and all people? For those teachers complaining about this, it makes me wonder what it is they want to teach students. Or do they want to indoctrinate them?
Besides this issue itself being divisive, what are other potential impacts? Will this lead to each school having a diversity, equity, and inclusive (DEI) coach? Rather than DEI, I prefer diversity, inclusive, and equity (DIE). Schools have instructional or curriculum coaches (often viewed as police), so why not DEI coaches. Has the stage not been set? The United Nations had a world campaign promoting diversity and inclusion. Universities and colleges have Vice Presidents or cabinet level position related to DEI. Most school districts have district level positions dedicated to DEI. Is the next logical step to have a DEI coach in each school?
Is CRT related legislation even necessary? Will such legislation just put another layer of rules and regs on top of ones already on the books but likely ignored and not enforced or selectively or inconsistently enforced? Isn’t the US Constitution and the Civil Rights Act already enough? In all the CRT kerfuffle, I have heard no mention of standards/codes that give guidance to teacher professionalism and ethics. Most, if not all, states have standards of professional practice or teacher code of ethics in place. Are those standards/codes being used? Or ignored in the kerfuffle? Could they be used? Violation of such standards/codes in most states is grounds for the suspension or revocation of teacher certification. If parents find their child’s teacher violates such standards/codes, maybe they need to see if the state will address it.
Even the NEA has a Code of Ethics for Educators. Commitment to the Student is the first section of this Code. This section says:
In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator—
Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning.
Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view.
Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student’s progress.
Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.
Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.
Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly
Exclude any student from participation in any program
Deny benefits to any student
Grant any advantage to any student
Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.
Shall not disclose information about students obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.
Most states have similar codes or standards. As an example, Tennessee’s Teacher Code of Ethics includes the following:
Abide by all applicable federal and state laws;
Not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning;
Provide the student with professional education services in a nondiscriminatory manner and in consonance with accepted best practices known to the educator;
Respect the constitutional rights of the student;
Not unreasonably deny the student access to varying points of view;
Not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student’s progress;
Make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety;
Make reasonable effort to protect the emotional well-being of the student;
Not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement;
Not on the basis of race; color; creed’ disability’ sex’ national origin’ marital status’ political or religious beliefs’ family, social, or cultural background’ or sexual orientation, unfairly:
Exclude the student from participation in any program;
Deny benefits to the student; or
Grant any advantage to the student;
Parents may want to become familiar with the standards of professional practice or teacher code of ethics for their respective state.
For those interested in tracking legislative bills related to CRT, here are some web pages you may want to visit. I find the first two to be the most valuable.
What about Washington state?