By: John Cabascango
It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper or surf social media without running into someone’s opinion about Critical Race Theory. Local leaders have warned that it will turn children against each other and cause them to hate their own country. That’s a damning accusation if true. However, who actually knows what Critical Race Theory is?
Critical Race Theory: an introduction by law professors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanicic is often referred to as a good place to start. The book is somewhat accessible if you have done some graduate reading in critical studies, which raises questions over how this is supposedly being smuggled into the average high school classroom. Smuggling Shamu into a Petsmart might be less conspicuous.
Much more accessible is a series of articles “What Christians get Wrong about Critical Race Theory,” by Wheaton College’s Nathan Cartagena. He is clear that CRT is not a “single theory, method or analytical tool.” He outlines two assumptions of CRT, one that white supremacy has been maintained in the U.S. and that understanding the function of racism isn’t enough to change it.
What Cartagena outlines and Delgado and the late Derrick Bell argue at length is that U.S. History has been resistant to racial change because racism is woven into its fabric. Those who argue that the accomplishments of individual minorities demonstrate victory over racism do not address why the successes of people of color require such extraordinary combinations of both individual ability and circumstance.
In addition, teaching about slavery, migrant worker labor movements and Japanese Internment Camps isn’t CRT, just history. There are always going to be questions over an age appropriate level for certain aspects of history and considerations regarding students learning about people that look like them or have similar backgrounds. Those considerations aren’t CRT, just age appropriate level factors and cultural sensitivity. Neither require a law degree, or an extensive glossary of legal terms at the end of each textbook.
And what of the fear that children will hate their country because of what they learn in school. Well, Thomas Jefferson authored one of the world’s most brilliant historical documents and owned over six hundred slaves. Alexander Hamilton was certainly a mixed bag, but a catchy soundtrack certainly helped him become accessible. The challenges of getting students’ attention and weighing multiple sides of various issues does not require complex legal theories.
So you have to ask yourself, if it is unlikely that CRT is really being taught in high school, not to mention middle and elementary school, why is this such a hot topic? Is this really the primary battle of public education and the hill worth dying on?
I might offer the modest proposal that it is worth asking what or who you are fighting before charging off into battle. Tilting at Windmills makes for an entertaining story, but perhaps there are other battles more worth our time.
John Cabascango teaches English and Spanish in the International Baccalaureate Program at Smithfield Selma High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Literature and Biblical Studies and a master’s degree in Intercultural Studies and TESOL from Wheaton College.
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