The last few months have seen discussions and disagreement over how matters of race should be taught in schools across the nation. Brad Sale, Superintendent of the Parker Unified School District, said the Parker Schools will be teaching history according to the state standards.
“We aim to give students the tools and resources to be successful in school and in life,” Sale said. “We realize that differs from one student to another.”
Sale also stated the body of thought known as Critical Race Theory should have no place in the K-12 curriculum.
“We are here to educate, not indoctrinate,” Sale said.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory has become controversial in recent months, particularly as it relates to education. Some state legislatures, most of them controlled by Republicans, have enacted legislation to prevent it from being taught in schools.
Critics of CRT say it is divisive and teaches students, particularly white students, to hate themselves and their country. Proponents of CRT say the critics want to present a sanitized, “white washed” version of American history and ignore the nation’s evils.
The Pioneer researched several articles online to get a better understanding of what CRT is and is not. Based on that research, the Pioneer found CRT grew out of the successes and failures of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. While well-known in colleges and universities, it is now making its way into high schools and the lower grades in some areas. It is not so much a coherent theory as a field of thought that takes in many viewpoints. Not all Critical Race Theorists believe the same things. However, the Pioneer found there are five points they generally agree on:
The first is that race is a social construct invented by whites to oppress non-white people. The system is so infused with racism, that even whites who have no intention of being racist benefit from the system and end up perpetuating that racist system.
Second, CRT says race plays a central issue in American society and life. The system was set up by whites to benefit whites at the expense of non-whites. Claims of “colorblindness” and “meritocracy” serve the interests of whites in that they absolve them of the harm they have done to non-whites.
The third point is a challenge to traditional liberal ideas of how to achieve social justice and a less racist society. There are claims, for example, the advances made in civil rights, such as the decision in “Brown v. Topeka Board of Education” in 1954, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act, were done because they fit the needs of the white establishment, and whites benefitted more from these than non-whites did.
A fourth point has been described as “story telling.” This is the idea that individual stories of non-whites and their experiences are essential to understanding race in America.
The fifth and final point most Critical Race Theorists agree on is social justice. For some, this means the system is so hopelessly racist and corrupt, it cannot be reformed and must be thrown out.
The 1619 Project
In 2019, the New York Times published the “1619 Project.” The founder and coordinator of the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Among her contentions is America’s real founding came in 1619 when the first African slaves arrived in Virginia. She also claimed the real motivation in 1776 for American independence from Great Britain was the desire to protect slavery.
Many historians have criticized the 1619 Project’s claims on the reasons for seeking American independence, noting the writings of many of the founders stated they opposed slavery, or, if they owned slaves, they were uncomfortable with the institution. They noted slavery was not threatened by British authorities in 1776. Some have called the project “propaganda.”
Despite these objections, the Times has prepared educational materials for schools related to the “1619 Project.”
In the violence in 2020 following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers, the New York Post referred to the riots as the “1619 Riots.” Hannah-Jones tweeted she would be “honored” by that name.
Sale also noted how many historians have come out against the “1619 Project.” He said the project and Critical Race Theory do not take into account the idea that America can and has changed over time. He said that’s a point that’s important to teach in history classes.
“We have the ability to change over time,” he said, “We’re looking for that more perfect union. We’re not a perfect union, but we’re always looking for a more perfect one.”
The 2021-22 school year starts Aug. 2 in the Parker schools.