Is your head in the sand?
Yes or No?
1. A kindergarten classroom has equal numbers of students by race and ethnicity, but their 80% of their classroom library features books with White characters. Do you support spending money on new books which better reflect the backgrounds of all 5- and 6-year-olds in this class?
2. Research indicates that using students’ strengths results in better learning. Would you support training for teachers to learn how to leverage a child’s home language and culture to increase their (and the district’s) academic and social success?
3. A middle-school teacher overhears a common stereotype– it doesn’t matter what it is or whether it’s well intended. The stereotype itself is false (everyone with Middle Eastern heritage is a terrorist. All students with Asian parents experience extreme academic pressure. Jocks are dumb. Immigrants are lazy.) Would you support the teacher taking time out of class to debunk these ideas and teach students how to engage with their peers respectfully and therefore more productively?
4. Your student comes home feeling bad about school. Maybe they didn’t understand math class, or they lost at Four Square. Maybe they learned that their town played a role in serious racist incidents – in the past or now. Do you help them face challenging experiences and ideas? Do you teach them how to cope in a diverse world in which people don't always agree?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you support what some call “Critical Race Theory”. Critical Race Theory, (CRT) is terrifying, right? I’ve heard it called the “greatest threat to Western Civilization”. Let’s dispense with the obvious. CRT is not actually in K-12 schools. If you want to know what CRT really is, read this and this. In a nutshell, this graduate level theory (which emerged from the legal world) is not being taught in public schools. So, what are people afraid of?
The anti-CRT folks appear to be confusing CRT with equity initiatives and culturally responsive teaching. As a result, those against CRT are fighting a ghost. Complaining about something which doesn’t exist explains why they often have trouble defining it and can’t even list examples of precisely what they oppose. I’ll note that it’s easier to stoke fear of BIG, BAD Critical Race Theory, than it is to stoke fear of picture books for kindergarteners or having honest discussions about how words can hurt with middle schoolers (those of us with middle schoolers know this topic is always needed).
I’m betting that the average parent does not want their child in a classroom where students are allowed to be called terrorists. Most don’t want their child to shy away from hard or different ideas. After all, in the real world we interact with all kinds of people and all kinds of ideas, all the time. There’s not much benefit in pretending as though other ideas don’t exist.
Call to action
1. Avoid use the term Critical Race Theory – it’s incorrect and only prevents us from having deeper conversations about what our children do and do not need.
2. Find out exactly what your child’s school IS doing. Are they getting representative picture books? Are they using culturally responsive practices? Don’t dismiss equity initiatives without understanding what they actually look like in your schools.
3. Exercise your constitutional right to be heard. Email your school board with your thoughts. Speak during public comments. AND, listen to others exercising their constitutional right to be heard.
4. Don't assume that everyone else agrees with you (or that you are in the majority). Be curious – why do others feel this way? What don’t you know about their experiences?
5. Above all, in public discourse, don’t do or say anything which you wouldn’t let your 1st grader do or say. Build bridges, don’t burn them.