The Biden administration has made it clear it wants to expand the regulatory state and double down on government involvement in all areas of American life.
One of those areas that deserves more attention is education. Recently, the Department of Education issued a proposal that specifies two curriculum priorities for schools applying for grants through federal American History and Civics Education programs.
The first priority mandates schools “incorporate teaching and learning practices that reflect the diversity, identities … and experiences of all students” and “create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.” The second asks for curriculum to include a strong focus on “news literacy” as a means to “meaningfully participate in our democracy and distinguish fact from misinformation.”
For good reason, parents are up in arms about the proposed rule. The second priority might sound harmless, but it would in practice put kids in the middle of the 24/7 news cycle crossfire. At the same time, there is an obvious left-leaning tilt to this priority that should raise suspicion. Schools should teach kids to develop critical thinking skills through traditional practices of reading and writing before they ask them to become unpaid fact-checkers.
But while the second priority is harmful and would take away valuable classroom time that could be used to hone critical thinking skills and foster passion for learning, the first priority is what is at the root of parents’ indignation. Now, if public schools want to receive federal grant funding for their civics and history programs, they need to implement curriculum that examines American history, institutions and society through a radical postmodern theory which contends “that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.” This theory, known as critical race theory (CRT), is tightening its grip on K-12 schools.
Teaching students a holistic view of American history is a laudable goal, and we should continue to fight against racial injustices in society and government. But when discussing how we ought to teach students the nuances of our history, it’s important to remember that critical race theory isn’t traditional, fact-based civics or sociology education. CRT teaches that groups in society conduct themselves solely on racial and political lines and that collective identity trumps individualism. Rather than seek to understand human behavior and how societies function, CRT seeks to transform society and redraw the lines of hierarchies and relationships on the basis of race, politics and culture. This sort of ideology, based on highlighting the division between groups, is likely to increase the racial fissures that countless Americans have worked to address and eliminate.