Teachers and educators really have had a tough go of it in the past few years. From their crash course in technology so they could teach remotely, to becoming defacto nurses determining who could come back to school and who needed to stay at home because of COVID-19, teachers have indeed done it all.
And the pressure on teachers isn’t letting up. The latest political game I have watched educators deal with is the debate over Critical Race Theory — or CRT.
For some, CRT is an insidious way to indoctrinate our students and must be stopped on all fronts. However, when other folks hear this, they suddenly get fired up and demand that there must be CRT in our schools. As a former Ethnic Studies teacher, I must admit I shake my head at both sides.
What is needed here is a comprehensive look at what CRT is and what it is not. And then, we need to look at the real need for our students, which is meaningful Ethnic Studies courses to look at the overlooked historical stories of how America became America.
OK, let us first get a few things out of the way: Critical Race Theory is indeed just that. It is a theory that deals with the idea that racism is so embedded within the country’s founding that the only way to deal with it is to dismantle the country and start anew.
Usually, this is debated about or written about at the graduate level. However, to my knowledge, it has never been taught in K-12 schools and probably will never be taught in K-12 schools.
This then begs the question: What is all the fuss about? The fuss is about what happened during the height of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, we saw the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbury. These incidents shook the nation. People took to the streets all over the United States demanding justice and accountability. But, as many of the protests focused on these specific incidents, something else happened in the U.S. The telling of America’s past began to occur.
Discussions that are left out of history books started to be talked about on the radio, in the news, and at times in the classrooms — be they virtual or otherwise. Confederate statues were being taken down, sometimes by force. What happened with Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre was now in the media, and survivors of the massacre were being interviewed. The Redskins agreed to finally change their name and mascot. Even the L.A.-based alternative rock station KROQ got into the fray by creating an audio commercial calling for Juneteenth to become a national holiday!
Is this Critical Race Theory? Should we be afraid? The answers are no and no. This is Ethnic Studies, and it should be embraced.