ANALYSIS: Examining the pro-CRT argument for K-12 education with Daniel Buck

In a recent article, four professors argue that bills targeting CRT are ‘propaganda’ because it doesn't exist in schools, yet acknowledge some K-12 education efforts have parallel aims to CRT.

High school English teacher and CRT critic Daniel Buck tells Campus Reform it is possible to teach the history of racism without ‘using race as a lens to denounce the enlightenment, liberalism, and the American project.’

Four professors recently published a research article in the journal Teachers College Record that labels efforts to remove Critical Race Theory (CRT) from schools as “propaganda.”

The article, “How Do Education Researchers Contest the Anti-Critical Race Theory Propaganda?,” argues Republican bills in 26 states that target CRT in education in fact policy distractions used to advance the core ideology of the Right, which the authors believe entails: “(1) fueling fear and resentment of people of color; (2) distrust of government; and (3) trust in free-market approaches.”

Noting that bills rejecting CRT often contain language that prohibits teaching “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior,” the professors argue such statements are “deploying doublethink.”

“The terms ‘divisive’ or ‘promoting division’ are found in all but two bills (Oklahoma and South Carolina) even though attempts to promulgate ideologies aligned with the bills’ aims are themselves divisive and hostile,” Francesca A. LópezRoyel M. JohnsonAshley N. Patterson, and LaWanda W. M. Ward write.

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Ironically, the authors are unable to see their own “double-think” when it comes to the definition of CRT.

The authors deny CRT is used in K-12 schools, pointing out it is a theoretical tool that was developed by legal scholars in the mid-1970s to explain inequality in terms of race. This line of argumentation is shared by many others on the left, like previous Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who called efforts to remove CRT from the curriculum “a racist dog whistle.” 

Yet, the article still acknowledges that there “are certainly parallels in CRT’s aims to identify and address racism and K–12 efforts to address inequities.” The professors never entertain the idea that those parallels between CRT and current efforts in K-12 education are exactly what parents are concerned about.

Whether it’s called “efforts to address inequities” or Critical Race Theory, it’s clear what policies targeting CRT are rejecting: curriculum that injects polarizing content into every subject from math to reading, material that instructs white students to view themselves as irredeemably racist and black students to view themselves as hopeless victims, and practices that divide students by skin color. 

These efforts are rejecting the radical idea concocted by academics that students need to hear about race “every day” in the classroom from infancy to adulthood, as some scholars argued in the journal National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Instead of addressing these concerns, the debate about CRT, as the four professors claim, is falsely characterized as “a debate about whether to teach about race and history in America.” 

Daniel Buck, high school English teacher, Chalkboard Review co-founder, and fellow at the Fordham Institute, believes this line of argumentation misrepresents critics of CRT.

“I am an outspoken critic of critical race theory and critical pedagogy more generally. I teach Frederick Douglass; I read the speeches of Martin Luther King; I have a unit dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance and all of [the] themes within these texts,” Buck told Campus Reform. 

“There is a big difference between teaching about the racial injustices in America’s past or discussing race as a class, and using race as a lens to denounce the enlightenment, liberalism, and the American project,” he continued. 

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While it may be technically true that schools are not assigning the writing of CRT scholars Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, they are teaching the theoretical framework’s tenants: that racism is the normal state of society, that racism is systemic and not individual, and that centering experiences should take precedence over objectivity. 

But in many cases, the argument that CRT isn’t in the curriculum is dishonest too. Schools are assigning the work of modern CRT proponents under the guise of children’s literature like Ibram X. Kendi’s Anti-racist Baby or Anastasia Higginbotham‘s Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. The latter was taught or recommended in at least 36 school districts across the country, according to Christopher Rufo.

Yet to the professors, criticism is still equivalent to propaganda. Propaganda that is best fought with evidence. 

“Give them the facts, give them competing theories about what to do about them, and allow students to reach their own conclusions,” he stated.

Campus Reform reached out to the article authors but did not receive a response. This article will be updated accordingly. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @katesrichardson.