The nation’s attention has been drawn front and center to the use of Critical Race Theory in the classroom. Stories of schools portraying all white people and American institutions as racist, make the headline news on daily basis. The latest, from Pennsylvania State University, involves a professor telling a student he’s oppressing someone because he stepped out of his house and took a breath. As radical as this sounds, it is the consequence of allowing liberalism to go unchecked on campus in the name of egalitarianism. While Americans are fighting back against the use of CRT, leftist professors are finding new ways to incorporate it in education. Critical Race Theory is not a lesson given to first graders to tell them white people are racist. It is a theoretical framework and analysis tool from which liberal scholars search for, and allegedly expose, the everyday racism of American society from education to health care.
The Daily Signal ran an article stating that the Biden administration backed off its support for an education group promoting the use of CRT. This may seem like a victory for many Americans, as the racially divisive educational tool is being portrayed as something new. CRT in education goes back to at least 1995 when, according to the book Critical Race Theory in Mathematics Education, William F. Tate introduced it to the educational community as a theoretical framework for identifying the “racist underpinnings of standardized testing” (Davis & Jett, 2019, p. 7). Tate, author of Toward a Critical Race Theory in Education (1995), which is considered a key piece of work influencing CRT scholars, was instrumental in shaping the way CRT is used in modern education. Currently serving as President of Louisiana State University, Tate eloquently states that Critical Race Theory is not something for the undergraduate student, but “a framework used in law school and PhD’s education to better understand how laws are formulated and the influence on law in everyday life.” That is a bold statement highlighting exactly why it is a waste of time to focus on CRT in elementary education.
One of Tate’s essays, School Mathematics and African American Students: Thinking Seriously about Opportunity-to-Learn, also written in 1995, illustrates how he incorporated Critical Race theorizing into mathematics education. Tate, looking at math through a CRT lens, believes math education is meant to maintain the status of social elites, and that African Americans have not been afforded the opportunity to learn higher mathematics, as it has been something used to keep them in a lower economic class. By using a CRT lens, Tate made the claim that math education has been cleverly used to hide discriminatory practices in fields such as health care (p. 432), for example, because they have not been taught the larger social roles mathematics play in developing models used in health care practices. He states that “those who have created such models have hidden their biased assumptions” and that it takes experts to expose this bias. Tate is also citing the role CRT plays in cognitively guided instruction. This view suggests that the thinking and everyday experiences of the students help shape the way they learn and understand math. Tate cited an article called On the Education of Black Children in Mathematics where the authors claim that black students are often dismissed when discussing their personal experiences as they relate to math problems. This is because math has traditionally been something that does not involve social situations. By failing to do so, however, CRT scholars believe math education fails to prepare African American students for life in the United States. One of the examples presented highlights the ridiculousness of such an assertion. Students were given a math problem tasking them to figure out the better deal on a bus pass. A ride to and from work was one dollar and fifty cents each way, while a weekly pass was $16.00. For a five-day workweek, the daily pass was the better deal. Incorporating CRT, however, means that the assessment was set up from a white supremacist perspective because the five-day workweek is a white construct (Tate, 1995, p. 439). This is an example of how they incorporate CRT in education, and they have been doing this since at least, 1995.
If CRT as an educational tool is to be stopped, the focus must be on the academic work being done in the universities. For instance, the book Understanding Critical Race Research and Methodologies: Lessons from the Field is a series of essays from left-wing scholars explaining how they have used CRT as a lens from which to view social problems and how to incorporate them in education. One such essay is entitled Understanding the Why of Whiteness (p. 13). The author, James Donner, acknowledges an important fact concerning CRT scholarship. Much of it is based on what they refer to as counter-narrative, or, counter-story-telling, as a means of verifying racism in the United States. This is something also mentioned in the book Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a song (2006, p. 3). Counter-storytelling relies on the stories told by people who have experienced racism. The problem, as Donnor (2018, p. 14) acknowledges, is there has been a lack of legal reference concerning these stories. In other words, a great deal of CRT scholarship is based on the idea that there is perceived discrimination, as it relies on the stories told by people who believe they are experiencing racism in America. The mission of CRT scholarship is to try to bring legal and historical precedence to the forefront of these stories in higher education. As Tate stated, it is not something for the undergraduate student. In another essay by Jerome Morris and Benjamin Parker entitled CRT in Education (p. 24), it is noted that any attempts to understand racial inequality through a CRT lens depends on considering the history of discrimination and how it affects racism today. “These considerations,” write Morris and Parker (2018, p.24) “are important because they provide varied perspectives to be distilled, interpreted, represented, and applied. The reconstructed product termed “history” is not the Truth, but rather the conclusions drawn from the resources employed, and the researcher’s interpretation of those resources.” Again, we have CRT scholars detailing the importance of oral histories and storytelling as the written record depicts the historical truths from the perspective of the oppressors.
If America is going to fix the growing problem of CRT in education, it is going to take more than demanding your children’s school refrain from its use. Critical Race Theory is a perspective being shaped and developed in our higher institutions of learning as a tool of analyzing social problems and implanting a permanent racial consciousness in the minds of young students. While many Americans find humor in the ridiculousness of college professors telling white students they are oppressing someone because they are breathing — the disturbing reality is that attitude comes from serious scholars who have chosen to look at everything from a racialized perspective to prove America is racist. Critical Race Theory is a theoretical framework accepted by mainstream academia as a legitimate theory from which to engage in serious academic discourse. The work being done by these so-called scholars is the work disseminated down the chain, dictating the approach taken in elementary education. Stopping Critical Race Theory will require someone challenging the assertions on an academic level, within the institutions.
See my other articles on Critical Race Theory.
Davis, J. & Jett, C. C. Inserting mathematics into Critical Race Theory in Education. From Critical Race Theory in mathematics education. (2019) New York, Routledge.
Donnor, J. K. Understanding the Why of Whiteness: Negrophobia, segregation, and the legacy of white resistance to black education in Mississippi. From Understanding Critical Race research and methodologies (2018) New York, Routledge.
Monroe-Hamilton, T. (2021, July 24) Professor to white male student: ‘You’re breathing, you may have oppressed somebody.’ Bizpac review.com
Morris, E. J. & Parker, D. B. CRT in Education. From Understanding Critical Race research and methodologies (2018) New York, Routledge.
Stiff, V. L. & Harvey, B. W. (1988) On the education of black children in mathematics. Journal of black studies, 19(2) pp. 190-203
Tate, F. W. Toward a Critical Race Theory in Education. From Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s children got a song. (2006) New York, Routledge.
Tate, F. W. (1995) School Mathematics and African American students: Thinking seriously about opportunity-to-learn standards. Educational administration quarterly, 31(3) pp. 424-448
Tietz, K. (2021, July 23) Education department backs off promotion of group espousing Critical Race Theory. The Daily Signal.
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