Monday 30 August 2021

Pushback on Critical Race Theory Starts with the States

The pressure on lawmakers to develop policy solutions to the creep of critical race theory (CRT) in education is compounding. With viral videos and sensational headlines, the fight against CRT is increasing day after day, and communities are being torn apart by its implementation.

We’re seeing it at contentious school-board meetings. We’re seeing it in tearful teacher resignations and parent investigations into their children’s curricula. And we’re seeing it with the ascendancy of parent advocacy groups such as Parents United that are dedicated to combating revisionist history and social engineering through education. Most of these individuals have never been especially political but instead are merely parents, educators, and community members frightened by the attempted manipulation of young, impressionable minds.

Lawmakers must decide how they will address this outcry. Some states have attempted banning the teaching of critical race theory in higher education, inviting legal losses over free-speech protections in academia. States that want to succeed in enacting laws that actually thwart the rise of critical race theory and its adjacent philosophies must consider legal remedies that are both productive and constitutionally sound.

Governors and state legislators should employ a strategy that first acknowledges that the struggle to restore educational sanity is a marathon, not a sprint. Progressives have spent generations corrupting the education system with anti-American and anti-capitalist curricula. Because these systems are so interwoven and complex, a meaningful reversal will take time. So, lawmakers must start now and prepare to stay the course.

Next, legislative efforts should focus on kindergarten through twelfth-grade education. Because minor children are required by law to attend school, there traditionally has been a greater governmental oversight of their curriculum. The public has a say in what children learn and the ideas to which they are exposed. Lawmakers have the obligation to protect young minds by advancing a curriculum that is honest, fair, and well-rounded.

Moreover, transparency is key. Legislators should enact measures that protect parents’ rights to access educational materials taught to their children. This begins with codifying curriculum transparency and the right to parental observation of the classroom. We’ve already learned how some educators have abused their influence over children by forbidding them from discussing curriculum and exercises with their own parents. Such secrecy is unacceptable, and it presents a dire problem in need of an urgent legislative fix.

For higher-education solutions, lawmakers must center their aim on conduct and existing anti-discrimination laws. Trying to ban ideas in higher education forfeits the moral high ground and is impractical. Legislation should instead fortify protections in academia that prevent coercion on ideological grounds. No individual — professor, student, staff member, or administrator — should be forced to undergo training or attend classes that promulgate a particular political ideology or social viewpoint they find objectionable. Coercion is not educational.

To create maximum impact, legislators and state executives must recognize that this is a multifront war. They should embrace “swarm tactics” to attack the problem from every angle. No single approach is enough, but all are important. Every lawmaker or policy-maker at every level of government can do something.

And often, doing something isn’t simply fighting against CRT, which is a national dead end of perpetual racial conflict. The fight against CRT must provide a positive alternative — one that is grounded in a truthful telling of the American story and ideas that unify, rather than divide, our country. It is imperative that education tell the complete story of our country, even when it fell short of its own ideals, and reaffirm our shared aspirations for a brighter future for all.

Chief among these is the bedrock principle of equality of opportunity and treatment. It is equality, not the newly fashionable term “equity,” that is America’s greatest calling. Lawmakers and policy-makers must refuse to concede the language of CRT activists by disavowing terms such as “anti-racism,” which despite its benevolent-sounding name is borne of an extremist political ideology that seeks to continually pit racial groups against each other. Theirs is not a genuine effort to maintain and grow a just and equal society, and their language should be treated accordingly. Instead, leaders must keep equality at the heart of their legislative goals.

In the months and years ahead, critical race theory will continue to divide communities, but the overwhelming majority of Americans reject it once it is exposed. To serve the public, elected officials must develop strategies that will result in true and lasting victories for the future of education. Families and children are counting on them. Will they rise to the occasion?

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