Teaching American Principles Instead of CRT in KY Schools
As Kentucky schools are about to begin, parents can rest assured that their children are better off now than they were last year. This is because of a recent bill that has now gone into effect known as the Teaching American Principles Act.
This bill requires middle and high school teachers to teach America’s founding documents along with many other important works that give a well-rounded look at the history of our country, without neglecting an honest reckoning with the tragic legacies of slavery and Jim Crow. Many within the public education arena criticize the bill because they claim it bans the ability of teachers to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT), a social philosophy that seeks to use considerations of race as the primary way one understands their interactions with the world. Whatever it’s called or whoever defines the term, Kentucky students should not be taught that their skin color is what defines them, which is what CRT inevitably does.
Critical Race Theory is a worldview that believes our country was founded on racism that benefits white people and oppresses minorities. Race becomes the force that lies behind all social dynamics and manifests in subtle ways that makes everyone complicit in creating racial hierarchies. That’s right, according to CRT, you, the reader, are an unwitting benefactor or victim. Your conscience and your own individual agency do not matter. Your individuality is swallowed up by group dynamics. If a disparity exists, racism is the cause, CRT asserts. Because of this pervasive racism, adherents of CRT seek to dismantle it through political activism. When these activists are educators, this ideology is imposed on students.
Mary Lin Elementary School in Georgia is a great example of what it looks like when CRT is implemented by educators. Teachers segregated their students by race. White students had their own classrooms and black students had their own classroom because it, as Principal Sharon Briscoe said, “gave them more opportunities.” It may be hard to fathom how someone can justify segregation in the year 2022, but this action is done to alleviate what prominent Critical Race Theorist Ibram X. Kendi calls “Space Racism.”((Ibram X Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (New York: One World, 2019), 175.))
We can also take a look at Harvard-Westlake, the prestigious private school as another example. It wanted to become a self-conscious “antiracist institution.” This involves, as parents of the students claim, teaching that America is a corrupt country and that individuals, today, bear the marks of guilt for actions that stem from decades or centuries ago. This means that if you are white, you are guilty of your own racism, the racism of your ancestors, and the racism that is imbedded within the structures of our society that you benefit from. This is a lot of guilt and moral responsibility to ascribe to persons not yet able to vote or fulfill a prescription on their own.
We can even look to schools in Indiana where school administrator Tony Kinnett concisely explains how exactly they tell their teachers to teach. “We tell our teachers to treat our students differently based on color. We tell our students every problem is a result of ‘white men’ and that everything Western Civilization built is racist. Capitalism is a tool of white supremacy.”
If all of this seems racist, that’s because it is, but as Ibram X. Kendi writes in now-infamous words, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”((Ibid, 19.)) And make no mistake, white students who attend schools that adopt antiracist practices will be discriminated against. Their skin color is seen as evidence of their racism and privilege, and because of that discrimination is seen as justified. We can’t consistently justify discrimination and stereotyping for one group and condemn it for another group. This doesn’t eliminate racism. It just changes the direction of it.
This is why Kentuckians should applaud the work of Senator Max Wise and the other legislators that worked to get the Teaching American Principles Act passed. Parents can rest assured that their children will not be discriminated against in Kentucky public school classrooms because of the color of their skin. Instead, they will be judged by the content of their character, as Kentucky takes an important step in furthering the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.