What Voters Are Saying About Critical Theories Should Have Woke Educators Shaking in Their Shoes

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Americans’ views about school curriculum based on critical theories of race and gender were assessed in a mid-April poll commissioned by Parents Defending Education and conducted by the Competitive Edge Research and Communications (CE). The poll, which surveyed 808 active voters and included parents with children in school and other community members, found that an overwhelming majority of those surveyed object to critical race theories being taught in schools.

The CE poll uses blunt language in questions about what critical theories, like critical race theory, actually assume and teach. It is rare to see questions formed using the fundamental theses of the critical theory-based curriculum in the public debate. Critical theories are teaching children to make assumptions about others and accept their role in society based on immutable characteristics like race and gender. They rely on collective factors, not individual differences, and treats groups as homogeneous, based on identity. CE is not hesitant in describing it accurately.

Their top-line question regarding whether the country is on the right track or the wrong track displays similar results to Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. Rasmussen uses a likely voter standard. CE found that 50% feel strongly that the country is on the wrong track. Rasmussen reported President Biden’s disapproval at either 48% or 49% during the entire period of CE’s poll. Other polls use American adults or registered voters, which is not the same standard used by these two firms.

When participants were asked how they would rate K-12 education in their area on a letter grading scale, a plurality, at 47.1%, gave schools a C or lower. Then they were asked how important particular activities were for school administrators to undertake. The only two items that were defined as extremely important by a majority were preparing students for the 21st-century workforce and teaching students how to reason and think well. The only item to achieve a majority in the category “not at all important” was teaching children their race is the most important thing about them. All other items had broader distribution along a continuum of importance.

When asked about trends participants have observed in their local K-12 classrooms over the last two years, a majority said that instruction was more focused on race, gender, and activism. A similar segment said that education had become more political; a plurality said this included a liberal bias. In reality, this has been going on for some time in many areas of the country. The realization among parents and members of the community is likely due to pandemic distance learning and news coverage.

The questions then reviewed concepts that are fundamental to critical theories, and respondents thoroughly reject them, with many indicating feeling strongly that they should not be taught. The percentages noted are for those with strong feelings rejecting the idea and those who somewhat object, combined:

  • Teach that White people are inherently privileged, while Black and other people of color are inherently oppressed and victimized — 73.7%
  • Assign White students the status of “privileged” and assign non-white students the status of “oppressed.” — 88.3%
  • Teach students that America was founded on racism and remains structurally racist today and that racism is the cause of all differences in outcomes and achievement between racial groups — 68.7%
  • Teach students with lighter skin color or who are boys or who are taller or slimmer that they are natural oppressors and teach students with darker skin color or who are girls or who are shorter or heavier that they are naturally oppressed — 88.6%
  • Teach students that achieving racial justice and equality between racial groups requires discriminating against people based on their Whiteness — 84.0%
  • Teach students that the United States was stolen from other people and inform them the school they attend and the houses they live in are built on stolen land — 57.0%
  • Teach students that there is no such thing as biological sex, only gender preference and that concepts like male and female are outdated and people should choose whatever gender they prefer for themselves — 75.4%
  • Create student clubs based on race or ethnicity and encourage students to join them to explore their racial or ethnic identity and discuss racial issues among members of their own race — 63.4%
  • Promote social justice political activism in the classroom by making protest signs and banners, conducting walkouts, and awarding course credit to students who engage in political protests and activism — 79.6%
  • Change US history classes so that they focus on race and power and promote social justice political issues — 59.1%
  • Hire diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants or administrators to train teachers, school officials, and students in Critical Race Theory and social justice causes — 51.6%

A majority of parents of school-age children who indicated that their schools are teaching the critical theories as described in the poll said their children’s education has worsened. However, 42.8% of parents said they weren’t sure if this was happening, and 45% said these concepts related to critical theories are not being taught. Recent reporting demonstrates these critical theories are being taught everywhere, from public schools in Philadelphia and the rural Midwest to expensive private schools in Manhattan. Hopefully, some of that combined 87% of parents will dig a little deeper to accurately assess what their children are learning.

The margin of error in the poll is 3.45% and had to be weighted on several demographic dimensions. The poll had a well-distributed political affiliation and ideology and was adjusted for other factors. But the proportion of respondents who object to the fundamental propositions of critical theories cross political and ideological lines. The results are encouraging if not perfect. They also warrant a broader inquiry regarding views on critical theories using the same question format. Communities dealing with recalcitrant educators and school boards that insist on using this pedagogy despite parental objections need additional data to support their position.

And more parents and interested community members need to run for board positions to ensure these collectivist and anti-American ideas do not continue to infiltrate the classroom. A group of parents in Southlake, Texas, just ousted the mayor, city council members, and two school board members, replacing them with candidates opposed to critical theories. Each candidate received approximately 70% of the vote, which aligns with the poll’s sample. It is time to take back our schools from the radical teachers’ unions and the extreme left.