Op-ed: I am a teacher, and yes, critical race theory is in your school
Category: Op/EdVia: vic-eldred • 2 months ago • 59 comments
By: By FRANCIS MCCORMICK
Over the past few months, I have engaged in countless debates with colleagues over whether critical race theory is in our school district. Teachers deny critical race theory’s existence because they do not truly know what it is and hence cannot recognize its influence on their practices. Critical race theory rests on two presuppositions: The first is that racism in America is not aberrational but normative, and the second that America’s social, legal and political institutions are inherently racist as a consequence of our admittedly shameful racial past. In other words, racism permeates our modern sociopolitical fabric.
Critical race theory is the practice of interrogating race and racism in American institutions and society using the aforementioned presuppositions. It is a critical analytic lens for understanding the racial disparities in our country and an activist imperative for action. Unlike social science theories constructed on empirical evidence, critical race theory uses a new epistemology in which truth is subjectively determined by “lived experiences” rather than what can be impartially observed, quantified or falsified.
If one expects to find critical race theory to be listed in school district training manuals or curriculum maps, they’re going to be disappointed. However, one mustn’t allow oneself to become pigeonholed into this idea that to identify critical race theory’s influence and application, it must be explicitly named. It does not exist in education as a course of student studies but as praxis (the practice of theory).
Think of critical race theory like the scientific method, which is both a theoretical framework and tool. The study of and training in the scientific method takes place in institutions of higher learning, which is then applied in professional practice. That your doctor does not mention it during their work does not mean it is not embedded in the field. It is entirely possible, even likely, that the scientific method is seldom named or discussed as a topic of conversation in most medical practices. Would anyone use that as evidence that the scientific method does not exist in medicine? Of course not. Therefore, knowing the distinction between theory and praxis, we must look for applicational evidence of critical race theory in education.
The proceeding list is not intended to be exhaustive or definitive but rather a guide to identifying clues that CRT is being applied as an activist tool in your school district. These clues should form the basis of a parent-driven dialogue and a more thorough investigation.
Critical race theory praxis in education may involve:
• Claims that the school is systemically racist as a foundation for district analyses of policies or practices that are “oppressive.”
• Teacher- or administrative-led activist language centered on dismantling institutional bias and oppression in education.
• District-level racial analyses of disparate academic or behavioral outcomes that presuppose bias without a more rigorous method of inquiry.
• Schoolwide dialogues, particularly in staff professional development, centered on interrogating race and power in the school district.
• Curricula built upon the presuppositions of critical race theory.
• Lesson plans that require students to use racially interrogative lenses.
• Pedagogues and behavior management theories constructed through a racially analytic lens; precisely, one that interrogates racial power dynamics in the classroom.
I encourage parents to use this list as a lens to analyze the specificities unique to their school districts. Above all, remember that labeling these manifestations of critical race theory as such is not as important as having well-formed arguments against them.
Know why you object to these modalities of thinking and make your case to other parents and the school board. For my fellow teachers, you can decide for yourself whether or not you find these practices helpful, but do not deny their origination or call parents ignorant or crazy for identifying them as critical race theory.
More important, teachers, do not use the sacred power and trust bestowed upon you by parents to impose this worldview upon their children. You are educators, not activists, and if you think you are the latter, you should reconsider your post.
Francis McCormick is a high school history teacher from Waukegan.