On Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared with the equally unimpressive Don Lemon to expound on the use of critical race theory in K-12 education. As is typical, AOC got more wrong than she got right. Her first assertion was, of course, that critical race theory is a law-school doctrine that’s not taught in K-12 schools. “Critical Race Theory is not taught in elementary school. It is barely taught in law schools, frankly, in the level that it should be taught,” she said.
It’s almost as if she doesn’t understand that almost everything that falls out of her mouth sounds like it came out of a critical theories handbook.
As Columbia professor John McWhorter said on a recent podcast with Glenn Loury (see below), AOC’s assertion is either uninformed or disingenuous. No parents are suggesting that teachers are presenting the writings of Derrick Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw to elementary school kids. It’s when teachers put their ideas into practice in the classroom that parents object.
McWhorter cited classroom tasks segregated by race that cast white students as bad or oppressive and black students as unable to be precise or victims. He said that these ideas have crept into the classroom to varying degrees nationwide. He explained that this “Balkanization of white from black, in particular… traces to those writings even though Kimberle Crenshaw and Derrick Bell were not thinking about what you do to six- and seven-year-olds in the classroom.”
AOC asks why Republicans don’t want “anti-racism” taught to children, even though Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, who call themselves critical race theorists, use the term to describe their ideas.
Her comments then got even dumber when she claimed that the debate centers on how schools teach American history:
“We should say why don’t you want our schools to teach anti-racism? Why don’t Republicans want their kids to know the tradition of anti-racism in the United States?” she said, growing increasingly frustrated. “Why are they attacking the core roots of history in this country that strays anything beyond what we already know? … Why don’t Republicans want us to learn how to not be racist? Why don’t Republicans want kids to know how to not be racist?”
McWhorter dispensed with this argument. Not wanting “anti-racist” ideas in the classroom is not about how we teach history:
Noble people are arguing all over the place that if you say you don’t want these anti-racist academy philosophies in a classroom that your child is in, what you’re saying is that you want American history to be taught the way it was in 1925—with a waving flag, slavery not mentioned, and everything is just fine and hunky-dory. That is utter hot smoking bull***t.
Yet, there is this whole debate going on now where the Left ignores what is going on in these classrooms. They won’t admit that all of these news reports spell something.
A Rasmussen poll earlier this month found that 78% of voters say that it’s at least somewhat important to teach the traditional values of Western civilization. Nearly three-quarters of likely minority voters agree.
Today, another poll was released by Convention of States Action and the Trafalgar Group asking parents what actions should be taken if their child’s school is teaching critical race theory. Nearly 40% of Republicans, 20% of Democrats, and 22% of unaffiliated respondents say parents should take their children out of those schools. This proposal is a drastic action that would significantly impact school funding on a per-child basis.
Parents also supported running candidates to take control of local school boards. Overall, 27% recommended that. Acting to change the situation is more popular than teaching the family’s views at home and not interfering at school.
At the end of the interview, Loury summarized McWhorter’s view of CRT into a two-part definition that parent activists should embrace:
- “Separating children by race and encouraging whites to think of themselves as privileged presumptively by virtue of their race and as oppressors, and encouraging blacks to think of themselves presumptively and by virtue of their race as victims.”
- “Making this idea of countering disparities in power or influence into the central mission in life. You’re here to get an education so that you can be a warrior on the battlefield of equity, on the battlefield of social justice.”
Loury explained that what parents are objecting to is identitarian philosophies and the co-opting of children into a crusade on behalf of political objectives that are not universally shared. Of course, AOC does share these political objectives. But it’s essential to note that her favorability rating nationally has been negative since at least 2019. A May 2021 Statista survey put her 18 points in the negative. Of the 78% of respondents who know her, only 15% see her as a role model. She is the poster child for an education infused in critical theories that led to a career as a social justice crusader. Frankly, most parents want something else for their kids.
Watch Glen Loury and John McWhorter define critical race theory and the current K-12 debate: