EXPLAINED: The Truth About Critical Race Theory and How It Shows Up in Your Child’s Classroom

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The term “critical race theory” can get you labeled as a racist, if you’re not careful. In the US, particularly among people over 40, the term is usually met with a negative reaction. And yet, most of us have been shaped by the ideas within critical race theory without even realizing it. So, what is critical race theory, and how does it have an impact on your child’s classroom?

Schools are supposed to be places where all children get the chance to learn and grow. But what happens when kids are exposed to one-sided, biased lessons that ignore and even mock the culture and history of their own communities? For many parents, that’s exactly what’s happening in their child’s classroom. You’ve likely heard of “critical race theory” before. It’s a school of thought in academia that focuses on the “lived experiences” of members of underrepresented groups, using it to “examine and challenge laws, policies, and practices that perpetuate racial inequality.”

What is critical race theory?

Critical race theory (sometimes abbreviated as CRT) is an intellectual approach to the study of American society, based on the belief that racism lies at the root of its laws and institutions.

Critical race theorists base this thinking on several key observations:

  • Race is a social construct that has nothing to do with biological differences between people, including differences in intelligence or physical abilities. This finally became clear after the human genome project.
  • The United States and all of its laws and institutions are based on the myth of white supremacy – the assumption that light skin color and European ancestry mean that whites are better off and deserve higher social and economic status than people of color. Because racism is deeply embedded in our systems and institutions, codified in laws, and woven into American public policy, this racial inequality is reproduced and perpetuated over time. Thus, systemic racism is evident in virtually every aspect of the lives of people of color.
  • The CRT aims to empower people who are marginalized. Attention to the lived experiences of people of color through research, narratives, and counter narratives in a historical, social, and political context is essential to the study of race and racism in society.

Where did critical race theory come from?

Critical Race Theory traces the legacy of racism in America through slavery, the civil rights movement, and even today’s Black Lives Matter movement. The CRT was originally inspired by the work of such prominent black scholars and activists as Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. Dubois, and Martin Luther King Jr. The CRT evolved into its current form in the late 1970s, when the civil rights movement of the 1960s came to a standstill and wiped out many of its achievements.

A wide range of scholars have contributed to the extensive body of work that constitutes the academic movement, but Kimberle Crenshaw and Richard Delgado, as well as noted legal scholar Derrick Bell, are often cited as important founders and authors.

Why is critical race theory relevant today?

In an ideal world, equity in education would ensure that all learners have access to high quality curricula, learning opportunities and funding. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so racial inequalities manifest themselves differently in American education. For example:

  • The current curriculum focuses on white stories and tends to leave out the history and life experiences of people of color.
  • A deficit-based approach is often used in education, characterizing students of color as needing support rather than honoring their talents and gifts.
  • School disciplinary actions disproportionately affect students of color and often jeopardize their school performance.
  • There is still inequity in school funding; predominantly white districts receive $23 billion more than districts with students of color.

CRT provides a relevant, research-based framework through which educational and policy makers can reflect on the social structure of race and the impact of racism on students of color. The system also gives educators the tools they need to change their current teaching and learning practices and examine the attitudes and biases – implicit or explicit – they bring to their classrooms. This work enables educators to teach in a way that is truly anti-racist, culturally sensitive, and affirming.

CRT also enables the development of new policies, practices, and curricula that help students think critically about the institutions that shape their lives and develop their own positive racial identities-which is important for all students.

Why did it become so politicized?

Resistance to critical race theory is not a new phenomenon. But the term made the front pages of social media in recent years when former President Donald Trump called education that takes a critical approach radical and ideological poison during a Constitution Day speech at the National Archives. Then Trump attacked 1619 and announced an executive order creating the short-lived 1776 Commission to Promote Patriotic Education. She also issued a subsequent order prohibiting government contractors from offering race and diversity awareness training in the workplace.

These orders were in response to educational initiatives such as the 1619 Project or the work of Howard Zinn, which sought to examine professional development, pedagogy, teaching, and learning through a critical lens, declaring any approach that acknowledged American racism, white supremacy, white privilege, intersectionality, microaggressions, etc., dangerous, unpatriotic, and ironically, racist.

Why is critical competition theory important in K-12 education?

Critical race theory itself is not taught in elementary and secondary schools (unless they are very advanced students!) However, the research and development behind CRT has drastically changed the way many educationists view our school systems.

Critical race theory originated in legal circles but has spread to other research and policy areas, including education. For example, there is still a large and persistent achievement gap between white children and their black, Latino and Native American peers in our nation’s schools. CRT supports education leaders in their efforts to unravel the systems in our communities and schools that oppress students of color and prevent them from thriving.

By challenging the widely accepted fact that academic success is not related to skin color, critical race theory forces policymakers to look not only at individual students, but also at the system around them. Moving from an achievement gap to an educational debt or opportunity gap is just one step in the right direction. How do our education, health and housing systems block opportunities for black and brown children? How can we remove these barriers?

Why do some states ban critical racial teachings in schools?

Although CRT by itself is not a topic in most K-12 curricula, some legislators and elected officials mention it in conjunction with any lesson or training that acknowledges racially oppressive practices, as districts across the country have come to embrace the idea that black, Latino and Native American students would do better in school if the systems around them changed.

This has led to exciting new practices in our schools and classrooms, such as. B. :

  • Change the way history is taught to acknowledge the oppression of millions of people because of their race in our country.
  • Training and professional development for educators to identify areas of implicit bias and help them develop skills to overcome them.
  • Develop new disciplinary methods so that black and brown pupils are no longer disproportionately affected.
  • Reconsider how students are placed in advanced courses, accelerated programs, or elite colleges.

This is a big change for school systems that have operated the same way for decades. There are those who want less change and think that the above measures are forcing a new worldview on children – they even speak of indoctrination. In Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee, for example, state governments are acting out of direct concern that a critical race theory underlies these changes.

And they may be right. You don’t have to worry about schoolchildren reading law reviews and academic monographs, but the movement of critical race theory has certainly played an important role in a broader examination of our society through the lens of race and racial oppression. And schools are an important part of that.

This source has been very much helpful in doing our research. Read more about critical race theory in elementary education and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is critical race theory in education?

Critical race theory (CRT) is an interdisciplinary body of social theory that addresses the role of race in the establishment and maintenance of social order. CRT is critical in that it does not simply explain disparities in terms of personal culpability, but rather analyzes the social context that has led to such disparities. CRT developed in the late 1960s through the work of legal scholar and activist Derrick Bell and others, who applied theories of double consciousness to the lived experiences of black people in an effort to explain the persistence of racial inequality in the United States.

Critical race theory is a type of legal theory that analyzes how institutions that set rules, regulations, and policies in education impact minorities in the United States. The theory looks at the way that institutions make policies that are fair, and how they affect the distribution of a nation’s resources and opportunities—including education—between races. It also looks at how these national policies are misinterpreted and misused in school districts where there are large numbers of people of color, and how those misinterpretations and misuses can negatively affect minorities.

Why is Critical Race Theory important in education?

Critical Race Theory is a school of thought that believes racism is deeply embedded in American society and it’s not possible to eradicate it, nor should we try. The idea is to accept the reality that we are all products of our environment and that what we may perceive as a fair or just society is really a manifestation of our own white privilege. Race is a social construct that is used by society to control people of color. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a field of study that analyzes how the concepts of race, racism, and whiteness affect society.

In education, CRT is used to examine the impact of racism on society and also to analyze the school system and how it perpetuates racism (and white privilege). CRT states that society is made up of “races”, and that each race has its own set of beliefs, customs, traditions, and ways of looking at the world. In education, CRT helps us to understand how racism affects how students of color are taught in school.

What are the five principles of critical race theory?

Critical race theory examines how race and racism affects institutions and society. The theory developed from legal arguments based on civil rights laws, and was created to critique the legal system. The theory applies the concept of “white privilege” to the experience of racial discrimination. Principles of critical race theory include understanding that racial oppression is systemic and how it affects groups and individuals. The five principles of critical race theory are interrelated and interconnected.

The field of critical race theory is a relatively new way of viewing race relations in the United States. Although it is still considered an emerging field, the basic principles of critical race theory have been developed by a number of academics over the past two decades. The following is a list of the five main principles of critical race theory:


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