By: Miranda Spindt
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is taking the country’s public schools by storm and was at the forefront of a joint Education Committee hearing in Wisconsin on August 11. A bill that would require school boards to make curriculum accessible to the public was accompanied by parent testimonies as to why, especially in the face of CRT, they should have access to what their children are being taught in the classroom.
Those who opposed the bill argued that there is no agreed upon definition of CRT which renders it impossible to find in school curriculum or truly know what would be prohibited by the bill and therefore would inhibit teachers’ ability to educate students on uncomfortable history and difficult topics. Some even claimed that these bills are just trying to protect the feelings of white students.
While there may be no agreed upon definition of CRT, parents certainly had examples of it being taught in their schools. One parent shared that the Arrowhead School District teachers have been asked to rank their “whiteness,” and students have been given surveys with racially charged questions to later be divided by race. In Germantown, teachers have been encouraged to incorporate social justice books such as “Activism and Organizing,” “Black Lives Matter at School,” and “White Identity.” They also had staff workshops discussing white fragility and white privilege. Most offensively, this workshop suggested that pushing students to work independently, write before verbally processing, and discouraging interruptions for questions are examples of “white supremacy culture” which damage minority students’ academic performance.
However, these are the very ideas that contribute directly to the stereotyping of people by race. White people are inherently racist with their most basic actions.
As a Latina woman with a Latina mother and white father, I couldn’t help but listen to these stories and think about how fortunate I was not to experience CRT teaching. My parents always taught me that people will only have power over me if I give it to them, and they always pushed me to my fullest potential. I am eternally grateful for that, but I can imagine what it would have been like for me if I did not have that and learned CRT in school.
Today, as young as third grade, classroom activities are focused on racial identities and students are told to look at their classmates through that lens. I can only imagine how lonely I would have been when I realized I was the only Latina in my class, and how angry I could have become. I don’t think I would have been able to build strong friendships with any of my peers because all I would see is how I am different from all of them instead of what we had in common.
Discussions surrounding so-called white privilege and the pervasive white supremacy of our country would have made me resentful towards my white peers, and maybe even my white family. If white people are truly oppressors and minorities are truly oppressed, I would have had to wonder why my mother would ever marry and start a family with a white man, or what actions my father does that may implicitly harm his wife and kids. There would be no place for me to feel safe from oppression. Of course, this is not true because my father loves and protects his family. The real tragedy would be if I were never taught to see and appreciate that because of his race.
I also wonder how my life would have been different if my teachers were told to avoid having me work independently, write on the spot, or sit through a whole lecture without interruption. I cannot imagine being able to accomplish the things I have without those skills.
It is true that while history is uncomfortable, all of it must be taught. There are a lot of horrific things in our country’s past and students will certainly feel different about that history because of their race. I remember watching a movie in fourth grade for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was an animated film where students travelled back in time and accidentally prevented the Civil Rights movement. When they returned to the present, their African American friends were in a completely different school building, while the only Latina character was the school janitor scrubbing the floors.
I remember identifying with her and feeling sad, thinking about how different my life could be. The difference between then and now, is that back then it was understood that white students could learn about racism without being told they are racist and minority students could learn about the Civil Rights movement without being told that they are currently held back from success. And instead of being encouraged to place blame or victimhood on each other, we were encouraged to come together, see each other as equals and find ways to become friends regardless of our differences.
CRT is poisonous in our schools and in our culture and it’s crazy that it can be taught in the classroom without parents knowing. Parents need access to curriculum to be in control of their child’s education, hold school boards accountable, and protect their children from harmful political ideologies like CRT.
Spindt is an intern at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.