Giving Compass' Take:
- Isabella Zou explains what critical race theory is and how teachers worry that attempts to ban it in Texas and other states would negatively impact their ability to teach history and foster critical thinking.
- Is critical race theory even being taught in K-12 classrooms in the way conservatives claim it is? Why is it important for teachers to be able to foster critical thinking skills about systemic issues such as racism?
- Read about how the lack of Juneteenth lessons highlights gaps in Black history curricula.
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Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill last week that restricts how current events and America’s history of racism can be taught in Texas schools. It’s been commonly referred to as the “critical race theory” bill, though the term “critical race theory” never appears in it.
But in signing the bill, Abbott said “more must be done” to “abolish critical race theory in Texas,” and announced that he would ask the Legislature to address the issue during a special session this summer.
Meanwhile, the debate has taken hold across the nation. Last year, conservative activist Christopher Rufo began using the term “critical race theory” publicly to denounce anti-racist education efforts. Since then, conservative lawmakers, commentators, and parents have raised alarm that critical race theory is being used to teach children that they are racist, and that the U.S. is a racist country with irredeemable roots. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and others have called the theory racist itself for centering the nation’s story on racial conflict. In addition, conservative commentator Gerard Baker has argued that critical race theory bans critical thought in favor of what resembles religious instruction.
Those who study the discipline say that the attacks have nothing to do with critical race theory, but instead are targeting any teachings that challenge and complicate dominant narratives about the country’s history and identity.
They say that critical race theory itself actually shifts emphasis away from accusing individuals — in history or in the classroom — of being racist, which tends to dominate liberal discussions of racism. Instead, it offers tools for shifting public policy to create equity and freedom for all.
So what is critical race theory, and why is it relevant to Texans? And why is there an effort against it in Texas — and around the nation?
Critical race theory is a discipline, analytical tool, and approach that emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s. Scholars took up the ways racial inequity persisted even after “a whole set of landmark civil rights laws and anti-discrimination laws passed” during the civil rights movement, Daniel HoSang, professor of ethnicity, race and migration and American studies at Yale University, said.
“These scholars and writers are asking, ‘why is it that racial inequality endures and persists, even decades after these laws have passed?’” HoSang said. “Why is racism still enduring? And how do we contribute to abolishing it?”
Read the full article about what critical race theory actually is by Isabella Zou at The 74.