Teaching Critical Race Theory in USD 383 doesn’t go far enough


Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

As the USD 383 Board of Education faces criticism for its attempt to incorporate critical race theory in Professional Development, racial disparities in school and the need for historical context to be taught have taken the spotlight. 

Don’t get me wrong, teaching CRT is incredibly important to help curb the influence of systemic racism in schools and society. We need to teach our children the ugly history of America. We’re a nation built by the toil of Black slaves on the land and livelihood of Native Americans. There would be no America without racism. 

But many others in Board comments and elsewhere have explained this and there is little left to say on the subject of the desperate need to teach CRT in USD 383. However, we have a rare opportunity to liberalize education not just on the subject of racism but all minorities, and that reality has not received enough attention. It’s not enough to just teach critical race theory, we need to teach liberal historical and political marginalization for all disadvantaged students blatantly and unabashedly.  

Most proponents of critical race theory and other minority-oriented curriculums claim that it’s not liberal, it’s factual. Opponents claim it is Democratic political agenda. I think it’s both. It’s liberal because it’s factual. Schools have a responsibility to teach history and current events thoroughly, without leaving out whole factions of the population. 

If one side of the political spectrum wants to avoid the truth and ignore the statistics to make themselves feel more comfortable the school board has no obligation to compromise with or recognize their views. In the 1920s when scientific modernism began to take hold in America, the nation was divided over whether to teach creationism in schools. Today, it seems absurd to teach something with no basis in science in school even if much of the population believes it. CRT is no different, and history will view it similarly. If reality has a liberal bias then our school system must also. 

Although the wording has been danced around by many, this is a clear and simple example of a national political issue being brought to the local level. This is blue and red to the core: Republicans don’t want CRT or an expansion on those concepts and Democrats do. It’s not regular politics either, it’s a manifestation of the culture wars. The division over American culture may have begun in the 1980s, but they are far from over. In fact, I would argue the Tea Party movement beginning in 2008 reinvigorated the culture wars to new heights. 

The problem is, parents speaking at these Board meetings and those on the Board see this division as new and preventable. What they don’t realize is the children they’re educating have known nothing different. The rising seniors this year were four years old in 2008; those entering kindergarten were born when Trump was elected. The environment they’re growing up in isn’t conducive to wishy-washy both-sides politics if both sides aren’t arguing in the realm of truth. So the school needs to step up and take a position; they need to make a commitment to teaching a liberal curriculum because the alternative can hardly be called education. 

When I say liberal I mean radical liberal. I mean telling kids that systemic racism is systemic and immigrants are human, *gasp* that girls are oppressed, *how could you say that* that poverty is a cycle and America is not a meritocracy, and *shock horror* gay and trans people exist and have always existed. Unfortunately, that is what qualifies as radical. 

The students in school right now will inherit a very different world than their parents, like it or not. The world I’m stepping into has been shaped by Black Lives Matter since I was in second grade, has been changed by #MeToo since I was in middle school, has recognized the existence of transgender people since I was in fourth grade, legalized gay marriage when I was 11. It’s not new and scary, it’s our whole lives, and we need to be prepared for the new American culture. 

It’s imperative that we tell stories of oppression because, despite improvement, lingering marginalization still impacts the lives of minority students. And, because equality is now largely the law, it won’t be obvious to them why this is. By the time they leave high school many students are so heavily entrenched in their privilege or lack of it they don’t know why they are in their position so they assume it is inherent in themselves. That mentality leads to an assumption that a person is poor because they are lazy, or rich because they work hard. In turn, we end up the richest nation on earth where people die because they can’t afford healthcare because nearly half of America thinks they don’t work hard enough, aren’t smart enough, or didn’t care enough to deserve it. 

With every new generation comes a chance to make things better. Teaching anti-racism, CRT, teaching about sexism and poverty, teaching about LGBTQ people, teaching for understanding and a comprehensive history is the way forward, and we can’t afford to live in the past any longer.