Congressional Republicans scored a victory for racial harmony in the American classroom with the passage of Senator Tom Cotton’s “Stop CRT Act“. Whether the legislation will actually halt the promotion of critical race theory (CRT), however, remains to be seen.
Cotton’s bill forbids “promotion” of seven principles of a “race-based theory”:
(A) any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race;
(B) the United States is a fundamentally racist country;
(C) the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States is a fundamentally racist document;
(D) an individual’s moral worth is determined by the race of the individual;
(E) an individual, by virtue of the race of the individual, is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; or
(F) an individual, because of the race of the individual, bears responsibility for the actions committed by members of the race of the individual.
Unfortunately, CRT advocates may be too subtle to be caught in such a net.
The school department of Providence, Rhode Island has paid $8,644,332 to two organizations for materials and training that most Americans would categorize as CRT. But the underlying principles are implicit, not explicit, and they are hidden behind coded language.
The controversy emerged when Providence middle school teacher Ramona Bessinger came forward with concerns that historically relevant books for her literature class had been removed and replaced with racially provocative “leaflet style booklets.”
A review of public spending reports found the Providence school department has paid $7,222,871 to the company that provided the books and related training, American Reading Company. Of that total, $5,052,426 is designated as federal funding. As Bessinger explains, these materials don’t overtly state the principles of CRT, but ideology appears to have played a role in their selection.
Similarly, another contractor, paid $1,421,461 by the school department ($1,152,339 of it federal dollars), does not clearly articulate the CRT underpinnings of its services. The Highlander Institute has been training Providence school employees in its framework for “culturally responsive teaching.”
The four “domains” of that framework are Awareness, Community Building, Cognitive Development, and Critical Consciousness. Highlander quotes from a paper on the last of them: “Research has suggested that critical consciousness — the ability to recognize and analyze systems of inequality and the commitment to take action against these systems — can be a gateway to academic motivation and achievement for marginalized students.”
Although the academics who published the paper never use the term “critical race theory,” the coded language is clear:
#1. Teach the language of inequality.
#2. Create space to interrogate racism.
#3. Teach students how to take action.
One of the references provided for the article gives the final rhetorical stepping stone from “culturally responsive teaching” to CRT: “Cultivating a critical race consciousness for African-American school success,” by D.J. Carter.
Grassroots movements of parents of all races have been emerging across the country to push back on CRT in their schools. They’ll have to keep a close eye on the curricula (and the budgets) of their schools to ensure that nothing slips through.