Editorial: The Challenge of Integrating Critical Race Theory in American Schools and its Implication
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a new socially-constructed monstrosity for Republican lawmakers and people unwilling to recognise America’s racist history, and how this impacts present-day politics. In recent years, individual U.S. states have gone to lengths to legislate bans on the teaching of CRT, restricting the discussion of racism, white privilege, oppression and unconscious bias. These constraints also extend to discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation. This article aims to explore the challenges of formally integrating CRT in American schools, and will argue that racism alongside xenophobia and homophobia will continue to be embedded in the American political landscape the longer CRT is not a part of the American school curriculum.
To understand why CRT has become a news flash in American politics and brought culture wars into American classrooms, it is important to understand what the theory constitutes, and what it doesn’t. Those opposed to CRT as a concept are wary that the framework rebukes all white individuals to be conceptualised as oppressive, whilst categorising all people of colour to be oppressed. Such anxieties have been incited across school boards and state legislatures, from Florida to Tennessee to prohibit the teaching on racism in the classroom. However, the fundamental issues with these narratives display how CRT’s importance is hideously dismissed as a theoretical framework.
CRT does not affix racism to white people as individuals or groupings of people. In short, CRT asserts that American social institutions (examples being the healthcare system, education system and criminal justice system) are embedded with racism, present in regulations and legislation that results in a disparity in outcomes by race. Although, many Americans are unable to divorce their individual character as an American from the system of governance structures, with people embodying themselves in the system. As a result, they perceive the labelling of social institutions being racist as targeted at them.
There are two key challenges of integrating Critical Race Theory in American schools: the approach of Republican-controlled state legislatures and parental concerns on the teaching of CRT.
Classroom discussions on race hasn’t been debated as extensively in the US 2022 midterm campaigns, given conservatives have achieved their goal of eliminating conversations on racism from the classroom. CRT has become a disputed and misconstrued issue in education following a campaign of deliberate misinformation by conservatives. Strategists belonging to this ideology have persuaded millions of Americans, together with parents of school-aged kids, that CRT was widely taught around the US. However, no evidence stands to confirm these convictions.
As of October 2022, Education Week data shows elected officials in forty-two states have proposed legislation that widely aims to prohibit the teaching of topics on racial and social justice in public school curriculums. Bills likewise have passed in seventeen of those states. In addition, many school boards have implemented local bans, with books on race banned in multiple districts.
The approach of the Republican-led state legislature entails implementing legislation that forbids school-level teachers from teaching lessons that mention race/racism or gender and sexism. This has had a jarring impact on what educators are able to and willing to discuss across American classrooms, casting a veil for those uncomfortable about the true history of the state of race relations in the US. Ironically, the implication of creating laws that outlaw CRT speaks to validating the point that racism is embedded in the fabric of American governance.
Furthermore, the scale of efforts to ban CRT in the United States are widespread. Several states have achieved this through passing legislation, including Texas, South Carolina, Arizona, North Dakota and Idaho. In addition, state actors in Montana and South Dakota have condemned teaching concepts linked with CRT. In the last year, state school boards in Florida, Georgia, Utah and Alabama established new guidelines prohibiting discussions associated with CRT. Until these restrictions on teaching the truth are removed, American democracy will be increasingly prone to the intensification of racial tensions, inequalities and acts of violence. Consequently, at present in some states, educators possess unchecked power in teaching children about race and sexuality.
Parental concerns on the teaching of CRT in American schools have arisen from parents worrying about their children learning ideas in school that they are unable to help address themselves. The campaign to eradicate CRT has succeeded predominantly because white parents and state-level lawmakers were convinced of the notion that white school-aged children were being manipulated into feeling guilty about being white. There is no credible proof or evidence to back up this belief.
The key consequence derived from the challenge of integrating CRT in US schools is blatantly racist, sexist and homophobic books are clogging the abyss left by bans on CRT. Those on the right advocating for these bans are really pressing an argument against reckoning with the ills of racism in American history. Black, Brown, Indigenous and LGBT+ students constitute the majority of students in the American public school system, and face erasure and suffering at the hands of cruel politicians that preach practising and encouraging extreme masculinity and whiteness. The challenge of successfully implementing CRT in schools due to these bans undermines confidence in the public school system as a public good provision, whilst upholding support for privatisation and choice in schooling.
The US Supreme Court’s Espinoza v. Montana ruling in 2020 has only problematised things further. School tax dollars are able to provide funding to religious private and charter schools, and their viewpoints on racism and queer rights. This has come to show that everyday racism and xenophobia has returned to American schools.
If America really cares about the advancement of its democracy, the full truth must be taught, and public schools shouldn’t be utilised as a battleground for the Republican party’s culture wars.