Across the country school curriculum bills are making their way through state legislatures. These bills are largely aimed at stopping the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” or at least what people perceive as Critical Race Theory.
Critical Race Theory (CRT), is an academic framework that examines how race has intertwined with institutions since slavery and Jim Crow. Progressives say that this helps people better understand and combat racism while conservatives say that CRT creates division and may even further racism. This disagreement is now playing out in statehouses all over the country as Republicans have introduced bills to prevent CRT related teachings in schools.
The debate is not over the specifics of the framework of critical race theory itself as both sides of the argument have now begun using the term as a catch all for different diversity related initiatives or teachings. Many conservatives who support the bills actually admit they have found little evidence of critical race theory being taught. This has become evident in the bills that are being presented and passed as many of them make no specific mention to CRT. Instead, the bills typically paint more broadly by banning actions like teaching an individual is “inherently privileged” or that “the United States is fundamentally” racist or sexist.
The broadness of the bills is exactly what liberals don’t like about them. Many advocates are worried that this will prevent proper teaching of history or worse, create legal traps for teachers.
There is another version of these bills that center on transparency. These types of bills which are making their way through the legislatures of states like Kentucky and Indiana would essentially require parental approval of curriculum. Proponents of these bills say this will give parents more say over their education. Opponents say that it will require teachers to post lessons months in advance which is difficult from a planning standpoint and won’t allow them to respond to needs in the moment or teach organically.
This ideological battle has been at a slow burn for years but has recently come to the forefront. President Trump actually banned a lot of these actions via an executive order in 2020. In 2021, parents showed up in droves to complain about race, gender, and sex education at school board meetings. Conservatives have turned that energy into bills. Some even rode the wave of angry parents to victory. This is the case in Virginia where newly elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin created an executive order on CRT.
Glenn Youngkin himself is generally considered to be one of the reasons for the push against CRT. Many people believe that his winning as a Republican in a blue state has many other republicans hoping to replicate his success. If that is the case people can expect to see these bills make headlines at least until the 2022 midterms.