Last week, California became the first state in the nation to require “ethnic studies” as a graduation requirement for high school students, starting with the class of 2030. Much of the controversy surrounding the rolling-out of ethnic studies regards its ideological affiliations with critical race theory (CRT), a contested, race-based doctrine that blames all observed disparities on racism.
Public discourse pertaining to CRT has been a defining issue for school officials in the past year and the conversation in California has centered on critical ethnic studies, which many view as a trojan horse to advance CRT. With the state mandate coming down through the pipeline and local school boards having the authority to implement district-specific curriculum, these debates are only likely to become more common, more vocal, and more contentious in the school year to come.
Dissent is a good thing for our public education system, a bedrock institution of American democracy. Contrary to media caricatures of American schools not teaching CRT and only wanting to teach “truth,” CRT is very much alive in our K-12 classrooms in various crystallizations, including hotly debated Ethnic Studies curriculums. In other words, CRT and Ethnic Studies are cut from the same cloth and are attempts to further divide an already severed nation.
CRT arbitrarily divides racial groups into two categories: the “privileged” and the “oppressed.” Those who do not understand how or why they have privilege are told that they are blinded by ignorance, internalized racism or implicit bias, and that they must work to radically alter the way they think and help rid systemic racism from all American institutions. California’s approved Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) is rooted in this divisive ideology, listing “critique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression” as one of its guiding values.
Instead of teaching people to be proud of the wide range of diversities in the United States, CRT inoculates this idea that race is a defining human characteristic, and teaches students that their success in life will be determined by their ancestry and color. CRT aims to undo the uniquely unifying American ideal of equality and replace it with the doctrine of “equity.”
In order to achieve equity, races, ethnicities, and religions must be treated differently. Equality of outcome is paramount to equality of opportunity.
This is the same line of thinking that led to the placement of Proposition 16 on the November 2020 ballot. Proposition 16 would have allowed public universities and employers to utilize racial preferences in admissions, hiring and contracting.
Despite being outspent, Californians for Equal Rights, proudly led the fight against Prop. 16 and won a landslide 15-point victory over the backwards effort.
Californians from all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds united to say that the era of race determining your success in life is behind us.
While the civil rights protections against race-based admissions and hiring stand the tests of a more diverse electorate, unfortunately, out-of-touch legislators and bureaucrats have instead turned their race-obsessed attention to our K-12 classrooms, channeling their efforts towards the implementation of critical ethnic studies and CRT.
The idealogues and race-baiting opportunists seek to insert race into every academic subject, even math and science. They tell children in disadvantaged and minority communities that they are being held back from success because of the unconscious racial bias and white supremacy that allegedly envelope them in their everyday lives. CRT sends the message to these children that they are only capable of achieving their goals when they are given an unfair boost and if their standards are lowered. Rather than uplifting students, CRT disempowers minority students by attacking the merit-based principle.
Over the past year, many concerned parents and community members have rightfully expressed their concerns and frustration regarding CRT to their locally elected school boards. While many in the media have painted these efforts as unnecessarily disruptive, this unprecedented level of engagement in local educational policy making is actually a healthy part of the democratic process. Parents, as the primary stakeholder of their children’s education, have a right to speak out if they disagree with what public schools are teaching.
I encourage anyone concerned about what is being taught in your child’s classroom to show up at your elected school board representative and raise the issue firmly, civilly and with reason.
Always be respectful, but always make your voice heard. We won the fight against Proposition 16 last year because over 9.65 million common-sense Californians was enough to overcome the powerful ruling class in Sacramento.
We will need to do that again to ensure that our classrooms are teaching civics and history free of bias or indoctrination. To ensure that our students are free to learn in an environment where they are encouraged to make up their own mind and develop critical thinking through exposure to viewpoint diversity, discourse and debate. To ensure that we have a future defined by merit and opportunity, and not the ugly racism of the past.