Critical Race Theory Debates Drown Student Learning Experiences

A Black Lives Matter anti-racist rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery on May 31, 2020 (GoToVan / Wikimedia Commons)

“Journey to Justice: A Critical Race Theory Primer” is a joint initiative between Mrs. magazine, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice. The introduction includes articles, essays, lesson plans, an annotated bibliography, and a COMloquium conversation that discusses and examines the dangers of teaching critical race theory from kindergarten through college. Enjoy the sample below. To explore the full primer, go here.


Many people – over 28 million to be more precise – posted a black square on their Instagram feeds last June to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Many were young people like me. Today, the same schools that are supposed to teach us to become engaged citizens have become a battleground between culturally inclusive education and anti-critical racial theory legislation. Learning to be active allies and participants in anti-racist movements while navigating these debates is frustrating and exhausting.

These debates around Critical Race Theory (CRT) overshadow the experiences of students trying to develop their understanding of a society forged by injustice. My experience at school is meant to be globally and culturally enriching. It’s supposed to give me the tools I need to fight for a more just, just and equitable world, a society that I can improve. But the anti-critical legislation and rhetoric of racial theory creates conflicts that hinder the learning experiences I am currently having.

I attend Brigham Young University, a campus located in a county run entirely by Republicans where parents are particularly concerned with the values ​​and content of public schools.

So i read How to be an anti-racist while lawmakers in my state have called an active session to ban cathode ray tubes in Utah schools. I learned of hip-hop’s influence on the civil rights movement as a school board meeting in my county was suspended due to unruly behavior from public commentators. The education I received helped me understand the history of the breed in America. Yet I wondering how to justify the anti-racist principles, practices and tools that I was teaching to the community around me who wanted to prohibit the teaching of these concepts.

Much like the rest of the country, Utah school board meetings are filled with parents who believe CRT will indoctrinate their children into anti-American beliefs. Even though Utah State House lawmakers have admitted that CRT is not something taught in our schools, officials are spending time passing laws against it, and parents are showing their support. The concern at the local and state level is not with critical race theory, as it is a school of thought taught only in graduate school classrooms, but with the recognition of diversity and inclusion and the recognition of diversity and inclusion. fight against racism in the United States. The CRT’s “boogeyman” is interpreted as an attack on Republican values ​​and creates waves of comments, emails and testimonials on Facebook during public hearings in Utah. These messages drown out the experiences, needs and wants of the many students like me who are actively seeking a culturally affirmed education.

Even though Utah State House lawmakers have admitted that CRT is not something taught in our schools, officials are spending time passing laws against it, and parents are showing their support.

During the special session held in Utah, I spoke with my representatives to respond to a storm of public attention around the CRT. During this session, the legislature banned certain concepts that they found reprehensible in the CRT, because they “would degrade important societal values”. I have heard representatives support my calls to reject the politically motivated ban. But I also faced angry words from lawmakers who wanted to pass the ban, arguing that such ideas should not brainwash students. It’s disheartening for me to be in a classroom, learning how to be a better ally for black and brown Americans, while getting emails from elected officials telling me I better not learn more. .

Students should not have to defend their education, especially one that gives them a better understanding of the world and of themselves. Groups like the Utah Educational Equity Coalition are bringing together stakeholders to empower community members with concrete, practical and civil ways to engage in this discourse, which is not going away anytime soon.

Those involved in the CRT debate at all levels, from parents to school boards to state legislatures, should research student experiences before making decisions on their behalf. While the voices of those who oppose CRT are strong, students deserve a voice within an education system designed to help them build a more just world.

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