Efforts to ban critical race theory now restrict education for a third of American children

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More than 17.7 million public school students enrolled in nearly 900 districts across the country have had their learning restricted by local action and the recent slate of laws and policies to ban the teaching of related concepts. to race, racism and gender, and often seen as “critical”. race theory.

That’s according to a UCLA study released last week, which surveyed nearly 300 educators and 21 equity officers, and analyzed 10,000 news articles about CRT between September 2020 and August 2021.

According to the report, the majority of survey respondents said they had experienced efforts in their districts to restrict or ban classes on race and efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion. .

The campaign against “critical race theory” began in September 2020 with an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump, which has since been revoked. Last spring, state lawmakers began introducing bills banning “divisive concepts” and banning teaching that people should feel guilt or anguish because of their race or gender. , that all people of a certain race have unconscious biases, or that the United States is a fundamentally racist or sexist country. They viewed these concepts as a critical theory of race.

In reality, critical race theory is an academic framework that posits that racism is systemic as opposed to solely individual acts of discrimination. It has now become a catch-all term that conservatives apply to any topic or lesson dealing with race and racism, gender identity, sexuality and sexism.

Thirty-six states have now introduced bills or taken other measures to restrict how teachers can teach about racism and sexism, and 14 states have passed these measures, according to an analysis by Education Week. .

Here are five findings from the report about educators’ experiences teaching about race in schools over the past year.

Laws lead teachers to self-censor and avoid lessons about race

Even in states that don’t ban “critical race theory,” local pressure from parent groups or community members has often led to the same end result as state-level bans, according to the report: teachers were afraid to discuss topics of race, racism, gender and sexual identity in class, not knowing what they might say that would cause them disciplinary problems.

“We saw a lot of fear and portrayals of self-censorship, as well as administrators warning educators to tiptoe around certain topics,” said Mica Pollock, study co-author and professor of education studies at the University of California, San Diego.

“We found people who had experienced very personalized harassment, particularly as administrators of color working at the district level.”

A Midwestern suburban equity official, for example, told researchers he received death threats on Twitter for advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The messages that administrators convey to teachers are important

According to Pollock and co-author John Rogers, a UCLA professor of education and director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, the way district leaders are responding to the Local anti-CRT pressure alters the experiences of educators trying to teach about the breed.

One District of Columbia teacher told researchers that his district leadership’s vocal commitment to anti-racism made him feel safe in his job, while others in suburban California and of New Jersey said school leaders must safeguard educators’ freedoms to discuss race, racism and other issues that are under attack.

“In places where district and school leaders had stated very explicitly … it is essential that young people in our school communities can learn about issues of race and diversity, people have continued to step forward and teach on these issues,” Pollock said.

“Without a clear and direct statement from district leaders…people wonder what they can or cannot do, and often choose to avoid these contentious topics altogether.”

Districts are watering down their post-George Floyd equity initiatives

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and subsequent nationwide protests, many districts had engaged in anti-racism and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives ranging from teacher training to district-wide resolutions.

However, due to local pressure against lessons on race and racism, some districts have quietly abandoned some or all of these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives over the past year, according to the report. . The report also found 22 districts across the country that had themselves banned critical race theory or the concepts they associated with it.

A New Hampshire teacher said their district, which had previously pledged to hire more people of color and launched several anti-racism efforts in the classroom, “shut up” on those initiatives after parents began to protest against the CRT. Another teacher, from a left-leaning Washington state suburb, said other administrators in the district had begun to view equity work as “hatred and indoctrination of white people.” A high school history teacher in a state that bans CRT said district leaders told teachers to avoid specific texts and teaching resources.

    Impact is most severe in communities experiencing rapid demographic change

    According to the report, districts where the percentage of white student enrollment fell more than 18% since 2000 were more than three times as likely as districts with little or no percentage change in student enrollment. whites to have a conflict about the CRT.

    These communities were often suburban and the schools were predominantly white, but were racially diverse. Parents arguing over politics spilled over into the classroom and prevented students from learning about race and diversity, the researchers found.

    “People in these local communities that have experienced dramatic demographic shifts need to understand what it means to tell stories of America’s present, past, and future in new ways,” Rogers said. “And I think that’s hard to do. And so I think, in those communities, when they don’t feel comfortable with how stories are being told, they’re vulnerable to hearing messages about conflict and then reacting in problematic ways.

    An ultimate denial of learning opportunities

    The intentional denial of learning opportunities for students in favor of partisan politics is concerning, Pollock said.

    The anti-CRT uproar is dividing school communities and creating a hostile environment for teachers and students to talk about race and therefore threatening students’ freedom of learning, the report concludes.

    “I think it is deeply concerning that the districts most likely to be affected by the [anti-CRT campaign] were the districts with the fastest demographic change, the most racially diverse districts, and the most ideologically diverse districts in terms of partisan makeup,” Rogers said. “These are the exact neighborhoods you would want young people to come together and have meaningful and complex conversations about race and the future of America and their common purpose.”

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