Should CRT be taught in public schools?


Instruction about race and racism should be like all other instruction.

It should be accurate. It should be balanced. And it should be age-appropriate.

Education should give the students the skills they need to function as adults (reading and numeracy at a minimum) and the knowledge they need to understand the world they live in.

What they learn in the classroom should not contradict what they see and experience in the world outside.

Teachers should determine the curriculum with the advice, consent and, ideally, support of parents. They should never shut out parents or go behind the backs of parents.


The problem with talking about critical race theory is that there is no clear definition of what critical race theory is.  Very few people with opinions about CRT have read books or articles by academic critical race theorists.

One of my friends says that critical race theory is simply facing up to the reality of the history of race and racism in the United States.  Very good!  Nobody could object to that.  But what exactly is that reality?

The version I was taught in high school in the 1940s and college in the 1950s fell short of that reality.  When I. studied the Civil War, I was taught about Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant, I was taught about Jefferson David and Robert E. Lee, but I was not taught much of anything about Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.  It’s good that a more complete version is being taught today.

The New York Times has published a new interpretation of American history, The 1619 Project, which says that slavery and white supremacy, and not ideals of freedom and democracy, are the foundations of American history.  

The Times is promoting its 1619 Project articles as the basis of a high school curriculum.  But many respected historians question various aspects of the Times interpretation.

When respected authorities on a topic disagree,  students should learn both sides of the argument.  I think the 1619 Project belongs in high school libraries, along with alternative interpretations.  

No student who’s curious about it should be discouraged from learning about it.  But it should not be used as a textbook.  If it is, it shouldn’t be the only textbook. 

Another of my friends says that critical race theory is looking at the world through the lens of race.  That is, you should look at everything in terms of how it affects people of different races, both directly and indirectly, and how the way things work in American society is a result of racism, past and present.

I agree that if you look at things that way, you may see things you would otherwise overlook.  But why look at things through only one lens.  It is like looking at things through a microscope with only one setting of magnification.

You can understand a lot of things in society if you look at them through the lens of money.  There is a racial angle on many things, but there is a money angle on almost everything.  Or look at things through the lens of historic American ideals of freedom and democracy.

An educated person should be able to look at things from different perspectives, not just one.  Teaching that there is one, and only one, correct interpretation of history, politics and society is indoctrination.

Critical race theory is an school of thought by law professors and other academics.  I am not an expert on this topic, but I have read Critical Race Theory: an Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stafancic, the basic college textbook on the topic, and writings by Derrick Bell and other academic critical race theorists.

Many of my liberal and progressive friends think critical race theory is an extension of the civil rights movement that they’ve supported all their lives.  But Delgado’s and Stafancic’s text book says just the opposite.

They say critical race theory “questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of Constitutional law.

What they substitute for this is advocacy for whatever advances the interests of African-Americans and other minority groups.  But if you reject the ideas of equal rights, equal justice under law and rational thinking itself, what reason is there for solidarity with anyone except members of your own supposed race?

The underlying idea is that African-Americans should not think of themselves as American citizens entitled to equal rights, but as an oppressed nation, like the Palestinians under Israeli rule or the Catholics in Northern Ireland under Protestant rule.  As an oppressed nation, their demand is not for equal and impartial treatment, but for equal (or better) representation.

If and when a majority of black American citizens embrace this idea, we in the majority group will have to somehow come to terms with it, as English-speaking Canadians have come to terms with Quebecois nationalism.  But this is not the situation today.

I would not deny curious high school students the opportunity to learn about black nationalism or anything else.  I do oppose teaching it as a dogma that you can’t question, especially in the mindless way it was taught in Loudoun County, Va., among other places. 


I don’t think there is much point in trying to define critical race theory in law and then trying to decide whether this or that teaching conforms to the legal definition.  The result of this would be an endless tangle with nothing agreed on or decided on.

What we should look at is whether a kind of teaching benefits students, not whether or not you call it critical race theory.


The Democrats’ Education Lunacies Will Bring Back Trump by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

The 1619 Project and Living in Truth by Sean Wilentz for Opera Historica.

2 Responses to “Should CRT be taught in public schools?”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    How old are you? I’m 61. I was taught about Harriet Tubman. I remember learning about Frederick Douglass (in passing) but more about Booker T Washington (because of peanut butter) & writers like Langston Hughes & Richard Wright … we read “Black Boy” in 11th grade.

    In collage (SUNY at Buffalo), I read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography & I thought it was going to be boooooring but it was a real page turner. One of the best books I ever read.

    I know I went to really good schools …. Westford Academy in Massachusetts & Fairport High School in NY … maybe that’s why I had a more liberal education than many of my peers. Or maybe I just PAID ATTENTION.

    Liked by 1 person

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