As parents move to eliminate curriculum that assigns motivations, characteristics, and societal roles to our children based on their immutable characteristics, they keep using critical race theory, or CRT, as shorthand. Please stop it. It narrows the debate that is required and alienates potential allies by racializing the issue. The real problem with the K-12 curriculum goes much deeper than that.
Critical theory is a lens through which those who subscribe to it view the world. Its roots are over 100 years old and began in the Frankfurt School with a bunch of disillusioned communists. Frustrated with the failure of workers to spontaneously revolt, as they had believed would happen, they developed new approaches. Over time, these intellectuals understood a few key things.
First, your co-worker isn’t really your brother, despite the rhetoric from the unions aimed at solidarity. Once employers and the government met workplace demands regarding hours and safety, working-class employees became increasingly content. Content individuals are not revolutionaries, so their lust for a communist revolution faded as the workplace improved. It was much easier to build solidarity between people who share prominent characteristics like race, sex, immigration status, and sexual orientation.
Second, liberal democracies and institutions are open to hearing about their flaws and seek to solve problems. The resolution of legitimate grievances makes them more robust with more equality and distributed opportunity. However, constant cynical criticism produces issues that can’t be solved by the current institutions and erodes them. The universities were the perfect place to begin this process, and, having been subject to this type of criticism the longest, you can see how illiberal and degraded they are.
The fundamental problem with the curriculum being taught in K-12 right now is that it teaches children to see the world, their country, their school, and even their family through this lens of constant cynical criticism. Watch a few mouthy teens on TikTok with this perspective. They judge all of history by standards developed in the last five minutes. Things we know to be undeniably true, like the fact that men can’t become women, become tools of the patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, or capitalism. At least according to the blue-haired, pansexual rage machines, which see the society they live in as a flaming pile of garbage atop the horrors of history.
These theories divide society into oppressors and the oppressed. The former live bathed in unearned privilege, and the latter have no agency that can overcome the barriers society places in front of them. Critical theories draw these dividing lines using almost any immutable characteristic, including sex, sexual orientation, religion, body characteristics, gender identity, or disability, in addition to race.
Certainly, dividing society by race may be the most shocking. It cuts at the core of the progress we made in the last century and upends the colorblind goal we had agreed on as a society. As a nation, we coalesced around Marin Luther King Jr.’s vision and created an entire body of legislation and case law that codifies this point of view. Intending to provide equality of opportunity and access, we attempted to move forward as a nation. While race may have been the most fraught category protected by these laws, they also included sex, national origin, and religion. Additional laws have been added to address these issues for the disabled. More recently, many state and local laws are on the books to protect sexual orientation and gender identity.
Critical theories attempt to divide by all of these characteristics.
This teacher is a lunatic who should not be allowed near children. Watch her scold a student who dared to be heterosexual during Pride month:
This school teacher was caught on video yelling at a "straight" student for questioning her "pride" cupcakes pic.twitter.com/Hgq0HFJ0AH
— The First (@TheFirstonTV) June 14, 2021
There is also a school of thought called critical nutrition studies. This theory necessitates that a young woman with the metabolism of Tigger on speed, who can eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s a day and never gain a pound, is an oppressor. A girl who struggles with weight is oppressed. Tigger girl will be encouraged to subvert the benefits she receives based on her appearance to the girl with weight challenges. Look at the underlying principles of the body positivity movement if you doubt it.
It is the lens of critical theory that needs to be extricated from the classroom with a demand to return to critical thinking. Labeling this effort to remove critical race theory or CRT misses the much bigger problem. Take out the modifier because critical theories are leaking into everything. The uninformed think people who object to “CRT” are trying to teach white-washed American history that does not acknowledge the tragedies and emphasizes the country’s successes. This is not the goal at all.
The 1619 Project is an example of a curriculum developed using the critical theories lens. But it has seeped into English, literature, and even math. Critical theories view all disparities in outcome as prima facie evidence of discrimination caused by a systemic or historical problem. This assertion is lazy thinking from intellectuals like Ibram X. Kendi, who don’t want to examine nuanced social, cultural, and policy issues. It also completely ignores the achievements of former slaves during the horrors of segregation. Then there is the narcissistic crap from authors like Robin DiAngelo, who attempts to work out her own racist worldview by imposing it on every other white person. You can find similar examples in the thinking of third-wave feminists, queer studies theorists, and intersectional theorists.
Parents, please do not give critical theory proponents the club to beat you with by focusing on critical race theory alone or short-handing the problem to an acronym. Critical theory is endemic to the curriculum used, and our younger teachers are so steeped in it through schools of education that there is no simple fix. Viewing the world through the lens of critical theory can cause anxiety and other mental health issues. We can see this phenomenon in women 18-29 who view the world through this lens. It requires them to maintain an exhaustive list of victims and perpetrators that constantly changes, demanding constant advocacy and acknowledgment for the disenfranchised. What an exhausting, joyless way to live.
The pandemic has lifted the veil for many parents of all races and political affiliations about the deeply disturbing concepts taught in our classrooms. Let’s not shortchange our children by narrowcasting the issue and allowing it to be added to the list of things dividing our nation by the color of our skin. We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the predominance of state-run education. Parent activists should be thinking deeply about how to navigate and replace it with something innovative and superior.