Canceling Critical Race Theory

Just four weeks ago, I wrote about the beginnings of a resistance to the teaching of Critical Race Theory, which is Marxist in nature, and asserts that the United States is systemically and irredeemably racist. Parents and other citizens started filing lawsuits and joining emergent activist groups. And now, many state governments have entered the fray. According to Education Week, as of June 18, 25 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict the teaching of the controversial theory. In fact, eight states have already enacted bans.

The activity varies from state to state. In Florida, the state board of education has voted to approve a rule that prohibits schools from teaching CRT and the 1619 Project. Iowa governor Kim Reynolds recently signed a law that will ban schools from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or sex, among other provisions. In D.C., a bill has been introduced that would ban the promotion of “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating.” And Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed a law limiting the ways that teachers can discuss racism and sexism in class. As Education Week’s Mark Walsh explains, “The laws passed or proposed so far generally prohibit schools from teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior, that any individual is consciously or unconsciously racist or sexist because of their race or sex, and that anyone should feel discomfort or guilt because of their race or sex.”

And now, ironically, the wokesters—the same crowd that brought us “cancel culture”—is screaming “Censorship!” National Education Association president Becky Pringle said her union is contemplating the use of “legal action against laws restricting how racism and history are taught.” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten weighed in on Florida’s law, insisting that lesson plans from the debunked 1619 Project help students “discern fact from fiction,” and laughably accuses Florida governor Ron DeSantis of “pretending this history doesn’t exist.” And now, teachers in 22 cities are planning protests over laws “restricting racism lessons in schools.”

The born-again First Amendment zealots are dead wrong, however. The 1619 Project is a lie. The original document maintained, for example, that slavery was a primary motivation for the colonists’ revolt against England and the Pilgrim’s subsequent trek across the Atlantic to the New World in 1619. The bogus document also claims that 1619, not 1776, was the year of “our true founding.” After receiving criticism from historians, some tweaks were made, but the document is still a fraud

And banning the teaching of falsehoods should not get under the skin of any honest person. If the Flat Earth Society demanded that their ideas be taught in government-run schools and were shunned, would anyone be at the barricades with fists clenched? Of course not.

Regarding Critical Race Theory, it is, well, just a theory. And not all theories belong in schools. If I came up with a theory that women are dumber than men, and could produce no facts or scholarship to substantiate my claim, would educators be pushing for schools to teach it? Hardly. Additionally, the teaching of CRT actually runs afoul of the law. As legal experts Rick Esenberg and Daniel Lennington of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty point out, the Constitution, along with federal and state statutes, protects “freedom of conscience.” Hence, public schools “cannot force students to affirm certain points of view—such as critical race theory’s ideas of white supremacy, white privilege, or systemic racism. The Constitution also prohibits ‘compelled speech,’ meaning that teachers cannot force a student to speak a certain message, such as a confession that ‘I am a racist.’”

The lawyers add that CRT openly teaches children racism. “They are placed in groups, labeled oppressors and victims, and taught that America’s system is rigged against persons of color.” Per Christopher Rufo, here are a few examples that buttress the lawyers’ assertions:

  • An elementary school in Cupertino, California—a Silicon Valley community with a median home price of $2.3 million—recently forced a class of third-graders to deconstruct their racial identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.”
  • In Buffalo, students are told that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism, and kindergarteners were forced to watch a video of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence” who might kill them at any time. 
  • The Arizona Department of Education created an “equity” toolkit, claiming that babies show the first signs of racism at three months old, and that white children become full racists—“strongly biased in favor of whiteness”—by age five.

Many leftist teachers are alleging that the new laws limiting or prohibiting their teaching CRT stifle their freedom of speech. But Mark Walsh clarifies, “While K-12 teachers retain some protections for their comments on issues of public concern, they don’t have much in the way of academic freedom to veer from the curriculum or infuse their own experiences and views into the classroom.” To bolster his point, Walsh cites a 2006 Supreme Court case, Garcetti v. Ceballos, which maintains that public employees generally do not have First Amendment protections for their on-the-job speech.

Should schools teach students about the evils of slavery, lynching, Jim Crow and other American imperfections? Of course. And had teachers talked about CRT in a neutral way, not as proponents, so much of the pushback never would have happened. However, indoctrinating children with a radical ideology that can be psychologically damaging begs for state intervention.

CRT dogma must be eliminated from our schools. The government takes your tax dollars, and then forces your kid to attend a government school (unless you are well off and can send your kid to a private school, or live in a state that has parental choice). For government employees at those schools to then shove an agenda-driven, radical racial ideology down your child’s throat is reprehensible.

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared originally at the California Policy Center.


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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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