To Fight CRT in the Schools, Unfortunately We Do Need Lawmakers

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The esteemed Robert Woodson has been fighting the good fight on the education front, particularly in countering the spread of the 1619 Project curriculum in public schools, and we are all in his debt for those efforts. On the homepage today, he calls for “A Better Way to Fight Critical Race Theory,” in which he argues: “Just as we wouldn’t ban teaching students about communism or fascism, our schools should equip students with the intellectual tools to understand any ideology — including CRT — and decide for themselves what they think about it.”

Respectfully, I’d like to argue that there is a problem with this, and it’s a reality that Woodson acknowledges: “Across the country, a handful of educators and administrators aren’t really teaching kids about CRT; some are applying CRT to curricula as a framework to understand the world.” In other words, CRT isn’t a subject, it’s a perspective: a way to approach subjects.

(And I think “a handful” is an understatement; we wouldn’t be seeing the intense public concern about CRT in the schools if it were ascendant only in places like nutty Portland.)

While it’s true that we wouldn’t want to ban the teaching of fascism, we don’t want our public schools to teach from a fascist perspective. As Cameron Hilditch forcefully explains, we properly recoil from the idea of indoctrinating students in ideologies antithetical to the ideals of liberty and the rule of law applied equally to all citizens.

Nor should we want K–12 students taught from a CRT perspective — taught to view the world through the lens of race, to view American society as divided between the (white) oppressors and the oppressed. We don’t want children inculcated in an ideology that denies their individual agency and impels them to subordinate their thinking to a prescribed orthodoxy. As Peter Wallison observes, “where CRT is taught, it seals off all counterarguments.”

Woodson is clearly dedicated to steering American education clear of CRT. I would like to think he’s right that if we “encourage students to hold its prescriptions up to practical real-world challenges and those who overcame them . . . CRT will have no power.” But just look at the power that CRT has already gained having escaped from academia out into the wider world.

I worked for many years as a copy editor on educational reference books and textbooks. Increasingly, I found myself drowning in academic jargon and critical theory, wondering how shocked parents would be if they knew the contents of their college kids’ assigned readings — both the wretched prose and the radical ideas. (Given what I knew, I could at least encourage my own kids to be skeptics.) But when that material filtered down to the high-school and middle-school levels, I knew it was time to get out. I began to feel it was immoral for me to try to improve these texts.

So the argument that legislating CRT out of the public schools has become necessary seems far more persuasive. It might make us a little squeamish, but it’s what this has come to.