The debate about critical theories invading the K-12 curriculum is getting confused and, simultaneously, over-simplified and over-complicated. Referring to this phenomenon as critical race theory or CRT is an oversimplification. There are levers parents can pull to end it once and for all without waging war on the local school board.
The whole curriculum actually has roots in radical-left critical theories about race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability status, and even weight. Children are taught from a very young age that some bizarre calculation of the various ways they identify within these categories determines their spot in a hierarchy based on them. The name for this calculation is called intersectionality.
Based on their intersectional calculation, children are assigned roles in society, motivations, and even guilt related to the historical behavior of their identity group within the lessons. In some cases, children are forced to admit to these qualities based solely on their immutable characteristics. Simultaneously, they may be told that they can choose their biological sex or choose from one of the dozens of gender identities. Assignment of these characteristics defines who may be allowed to speak, whose opinions must be accepted as fact, and what both peers and educators can expect from those in a particular group.
There is no point in arguing about the absurdity of this curriculum. It is obviously antithetical to Western values that view people as individuals, not members of a group. Our justice system is not based on collective guilt or innocence based on familial relationships or history. The collectivist nature of these theories is a direct offshoot of the Frankfurt School, which combined Marxist, Freudian, and Hegelian philosophy. They rely on constant cynical criticism of the features, systems, founding documents, and history of Western democracies and are not based on data or evidence.
The law recently signed in Texas is the best articulation of the concepts contained in materials that use critical theories. Prohibiting these concepts should be uncontroversial, and when presented this way, it would be astounding if it is not a majority view in America:
No teacher, administrator, or other employee in any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration shall require, or make part of a course the following concepts:
(1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
(3) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
(4) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;
(5) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
(6) 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;
(7) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or
(8) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.
Luckily for parents of all backgrounds who object to curricula based on these concepts, America decided in 1791, 1964,1972, and 1990 that these are not acceptable points of view for agencies of the state to enforce. Parents and advocacy groups should use established law based on the First Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to remove this curriculum from public and private schools.
In West Virginia State Bd. Of Educ. v. Barnette (1943), the Supreme Court ruled that students in a public school could not be subject to compelled speech. Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote for the majority and determined, based on the Fourteenth Amendment, that boards of education were government agencies.
Further, he found that the requirement, on penalty of expulsion for students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, to salute the flag was “a compulsion of students to declare a belief” and that it “requires the individual to communicate by word and sign his acceptance of the political ideas,” which was a violation of the First Amendment. Critical theories are political ideas, and no child should be compelled to voice his or her agreement or ownership of the characteristics or motivations these theories assign to them.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VI of the Act protects people from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX of the Education Amendments in 1972 prohibited discrimination in education based on sex. The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities at work, in school, and in public spaces.
These laws apply to public schools in K-12 and any private school that receives money from the Department of Education. What is essential to articulate is that critical theories discriminate in both directions. Objections are not about protecting children of one race or another, nor is the objection to it based on political ideology. Eradicating it is based on agreed-upon ideals America has codified into laws that need to be enforced until there is consensus that these laws should change.
It is not legal to tell a child he is oppressed and has no agency any more than it is to tell another that he is an oppressor who holds unearned power in society based on the color of his skin, sex, national origin, religion, or disability. Local and state laws and school district policies prevent the same based on sexual preference and gender identity. It is also not acceptable to require participation in groups or lessons that segregate by any of these characteristics.
Parents also need to understand that this lens is not limited to how we teach history. Nikole Hannah-Jones used the lens of critical race theory to fit historical events to her preferred narrative, despite historical evidence to the contrary, in The 1619 Project. However, so did Howard Zinn when he wrote A People’s History of the United States. There is a rich, legitimate debate about what the K-12 history curriculum should include. However, the collectivist lens of the critical theories needs to be removed.
The critical theories can be woven into every subject through book selection and assigned topics in English and literature classes. Radical gender ideology is corrupting science. Even math is not safe, with an entire curriculum asserting that getting the correct answer and showing your work is part of the toxic white supremacy in the subject. One might wonder if the authors ever studied the history of the subject since its roots are in Mesopotamia and Sumer—the modern states of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Kuwait, and Iran.
Hopefully, advocacy groups will turn from the work of fighting it out with local school boards and turn to the courts with class-action lawsuits on behalf of concerned parents. It appears there may be a straightforward path to eradicating these concepts from the classroom using laws that prevent discrimination in education.