Critical Race Theory in K-12 Education
Critical Race Theory has been circulating around academic circles, with its principles now incorporated into K-12 educational curricula across the nation.
By Maria Buenano
Date Oct 21, 2020
Formulated in the 1980’s, Critical Race Theory began as a college-level, primarily legally-focused “theoretical and interpretive mode that [examined] the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression,” but has evolved into a radicalized mantra of race-based manipulation. With nuanced “modes of cultural expression” sweeping scholastic America, questions arise regarding the theory’s historical and developmental significance. 1 Evolving into what is commonly referred to as CRT, this theory incorporates “the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour.” 2 The theory relies on the short-sighted stigma that all disparities between unique individuals stem from socio-economic inequality, which according to the theory are primarily caused by racially-motivated tension within a society. The overlooked miscalculation on behalf of the theory’s authors is the inherent uniqueness of individuals and the individuality which facilitates that uniqueness. Examples of how Critical Race Theory is affecting curriculum show through lessons pertaining to the self-righteous pillars of the Black Lives Matter movement, a Marxist organization and political trend promoting the demolition of the nuclear family, and the 1619 Project, a doctrine which states that America, its institutions, pillars, successes, and founding are attributed to systemic racism. These curricula have infected American public schools across the nation, leaving schoolchildren with an unhealthy view of society.
First, what is Critical Theory? Considering that Critical Race Theory is just Critical Theory applied through a racial lens, understanding the origins and development of Critical Theory is a crucial component to the application of the principles and implications of CRT curricula. “Critical Theory is a social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole. It differs from traditional theory, which focuses only on understanding or explaining society. Critical theories aim to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep human beings from a full and true understanding of how the world works.” 3 Critical Theory originated from a Marxist school of thought which emerged from the Frankfurt School in Germany. Critical Theory is built on the tenets of Marxism, which evaluate the relationship between economics and societal structures consequently. “Marx posed a new way of thinking about the relationship between thought and lived reality.” 4 Critical Theory is built on the idea of historical materialism, as formulated by Marx, in order to evaluate current social norms as they relate to the material superstructure of past societies. This ideology is commonly portrayed as an academic one; however; the tenets of Critical Theory as it is applied to race escalate to form troubling conclusions.
Before diving deep into the tenets of Critical Race Theory, it is important to understand the founding of the theory and the intentions behind its mainstream, educational adoption. CRT is more often than not portrayed by scholars as a historically-based theory rooted in extensive academic study and moral aptitude; however this is not what the founders of Critical Race Theory describe. “In its early stages, Critical Race Theory was more materialist or Socialist in nature, very much in line with the critical theory that originated with the Frankfurt School in the 1920s. The Frankfurt School was attempting to revive Karl Marx’s conflict theory by applying it to social and cultural elements, rather than economic ones. They argued that the oppressor class had hegemonic control of culture, and that culture was a better impetus for revolting against the oppressive elite and their systems than economics.” 5 It is clear how Critical Theory plays a role in the development of Critical Race Theory, as well as how it’s racial viewpoint does little to stifle the Marxist origins of the theory itself. Critical Race Theory remains a politically motivated set of doctrines that has no place in K-12 education. This is apparent by taking a look at the founding and inspiration of the ideas themselves.
Critical Race Theory is commonly portrayed as one stemming from a historical basis of literary and academic fact; however, it’s tenants are rooted in socio-economic theory, not facts. Critical Race Theory has little basis in historical reality, as one of its tenets focuses on the idea that white people, regardless of what they do, are inherently racist just by being white. This is not historically accurate, and the notion promotes a racist ideal. The tenants of this theory emulate racism despite proposing a so-called “anti-racist” intention.
The trend [of Critical Race Theory] not only influences the way children view the world around them, but it makes children doubt the legitimacy of their own experiences, resent their nation, and regret their participation in American society.
Unfortunately, students are no longer “going to have to wait for college to learn these lessons. The indoctrination in “woke” identity politics will have already begun in K-12 education.” 6
The theory’s impact on American classrooms is overwhelmingly negative, as its training promotes a victim-mentality that stifles creative thinking and healthy childhood interactions. Teaching children that their peers, country, and school system are inherently racist, does children a disservice by facilitating unhealthy biases and preconceived notions regarding where they fit within society. The notion and its implications put children in a state of political and biological dichotomy, where what they are told differs from what they know. The trend not only influences the way children view the world around them, but it makes children doubt the legitimacy of their own experiences, resent their nation, and regret their participation in American society.
As public schools across the nation spend millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars implementing these unhealthy mantras in classrooms, its effects are seen on the streets of our country. The evidence is visible on our college campuses and on our social media platforms. The outrage is there, and it’s consuming American culture as we know it. It is crucial to begin to deconstruct the “identity-politics propaganda from America’s public schools. Exposing the problem is the easy part. Some school districts have become proud indoctrination factories,” leaving students caught on the political frontlines of an ideological battle they are not yet equipped to understand. 7 American children are not guinea pigs, and the regular perpetuation of experimental, agenda-driven mantras to youth stops just short of being cruel. Children deserve an unbiased education; one that does not include unhinged theories promoting dogmas that are not permitted their respective and proper scrutiny. Teaching children that racism is present in every aspect of their lives is fundamentally damaging to their psyches and by association their social development. Every interaction and relationship they form will have a preconception based on Critical Race Theory’s proposed dogma, determining that all interactions are inherently racist regardless of the scenario. 8 Bonds serve as a crucial part of a child’s social and cognitive development, so adopting a stigma that children ought to regret their relationships leads to no healthy developmental outcome. Children may mature into adults with outrage and guilt complexes as a result of years of race-shaming, radicalized CRT training. This not only limits sincerity in interactions, but promotes a trend of guilt and regret that can only lead to a decline in positive relationships and interactional bonds. Why develop relationships at all if they are all doomed to be racist? This pathology is one step away from teaching full-blown nihilism to children. It is disturbing to imagine a world where genuine interactions may be a concept of the past, but even more so to imagine a world where future generations do not value relationships.
Ultimately, the mainstream academic adoption of Critical Race Theory involves the propetuation of Marxism under the guise of anti-racist rhetoric, chopped up into digestible and detrimental lessons for children. This does not serve to bridge the socioeconomic gap between Americans, but rather furthers the divide by promoting the idea that all relationships and interactions are racist in and of themselves. By limiting the development of healthy relationships, children are developmentally inhibited and their cultural association is distorted. The origins of the Critical Race Theory further support the point that the theory holds little to no value for American youth and ought not to be taught as historical doctrine, when it is in fact a politically-motivated set of modes featuring conceptual thought-prisons unbeholden to any American academic with dignity or sense.