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The Bottom Line The Radical Reshaping of K-12 Public Education (Part 3): Critical Race Theory & Woke Academics

Originally published at The American Spectator

[Editor’s Note: This is Part Three of a three-part article. Click to read Part One: Gender Redefinition & Self-Selection and Part Two: Civics & History.]

A form of reverse racism is not only dominating the national conversation but also quickly becoming a bedrock of teacher training and student academics. Critical Race Theory and woke education are sweeping schools. White teachers and students are labeled as racist and required to denounce their alleged white supremacy. Even basic mathematics is under attack for its perceived racism.

Those championing Critical Race Theory and woke education are reversing the heroic and historic work of King and many others who fought for equality in America.

Keri D. Ingraham

Critical Race Theory Teacher Training

What is Critical Race Theory? It is defined as an “intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. ” Critical Race Theorists assert that “the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”

The Frankfurt School, comprised of researchers in Germany connected with the Institute for Social Research and dating back to 1923, used Marxist concepts to “analyze the social relations within capitalist economic systems.” This approach was termed Critical Theory. Critical Theory produced Critical Legal Theory, which brought about Critical Race Theory.

More specifically, Critical Race Theory “teaches people that their individuality is not based on their intrinsic worth as human persons, but as members of a group based on their perceived outward appearance.” The theory intentionally “seeks to divide American society into two classes, the oppressors and the oppressed. It labels people based on the color of their skin.”

In an effort to ensure “fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States,” President Trump signed an executive order on September 22, 2020, that prohibited federal workplace training on “diverse concepts” which included “race or sex stereotyping” as well as “race or sex scapegoating.” The executive order expanded on a September 4, 2020, letter by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget within the White House, banning federal spending on any training involving Critical Race Theory, white privilege, and un-American propaganda. This came as the result of these toxic ideologies sweeping through federal agencies, including the FBI. Sadly, President Biden rescinded the order on his first day in office, allowing Critical Race Theory to reign supreme, spurring further division within our nation.

Critical Race Theory entered into our schools in the form of Critical Race Theory-based teacher training even as classrooms were closed during the fall of 2020. The emotional backdrop was a nation in disarray following a dark summer of violent protests, the defacing and destruction of historic statues, looting, and the burning of police vehicles and buildings following the death of George Floyd.

One example of many comes from Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia, the tenth largest school district in the U.S. In August 2020, when the district should have been intently focused on equipping teachers with skills and best practices for online classroom learning, teacher training time was instead devoted to Critical Race Theory indoctrination. The district paid activist Ibram Kendi $20,000 for a one-hour training session ($333.33 per minute). The one-hour training was only the beginning of the indoctrination. The district doled out another $24,000 to purchase his books for K-12 student required reading. Kendi’s books promote a vast array of radical ideas in support of “anti-racism” — such as the assertion that “racial discrimination is not inherently racist” (only discrimination by whites against blacks is), the proposal of a constitutional amendment against any “racial inequity,” and the establishment of an authoritarian “Department of Anti-racism” with the power to reject any local, state, or federal policy it deemed would further racial inequities in society.

Fairfax County is not alone in its Critical Race Theory teacher professional development. In December, during teacher training in San Diego, white employees were told, “you are racist…upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies.” They were warned that they would experience “guilt, anger, apathy [and] closed-mindedness” due to their “white fragility.” Masquerading as anti-racism, Critical Race Theory training makes blanket assertions about people based solely on their race — which is the very definition of racism.

Clearly, for Fairfax Country and San Diego, preparing teachers to indoctrinate their students on radical Critical Race Theory concepts takes priority over getting teachers back in classrooms or training teachers in best practices for remote learning. 

Even as classrooms began to open (at least partially) in the early months of 2021, the Critical Race Theory training had not let up. Instead, it spread like wildfire nationwide, not only in classrooms but into state legislatures, which sought to pass legislation requiring it. For example, Washington State Senate Bill 5044, which has passed both the Senate and the House, would mandate Critical Race Theory training every year in public school as part of required teacher professional development. Claiming to bring equity and justice to non-white school personnel and students, the legislation will hurt the very groups it professes to champion.

Liv Finne, Director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, describes the harmful and divisive impact of this indoctrination in schools: “Critical Race Theory teaches black children they are not responsible for their own innate abilities, but instead are structural victims of someone else. What proponents are hoping to achieve by this indoctrination is dependency and low-performance, and they seek to encourage political activism over authentic student development.” In other words, it lowers the standard for black students, which is ultimately discrimination against them.

Some states are pushing back against the training. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has banned its teaching in the public schools in his state. Likewise, the Idaho House of Representatives is also taking a stand, refusing to allow Critical Race Theory to permeate the state’s public school classrooms. Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin announced that she would form an indoctrination task force to identify where critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism “are lurking and excise them from our education system.”

But the vast majority of states are giving way to Critical Race Theory teacher training and implementing this damaging doctrine within their classrooms. Sometimes this even involves unethical and illegal actions on the part of school district leaders. For example, in Texas, Carroll Independent School District President Michelle Moore and Vice President Todd Carlton worked secretively to push their racial training plan ahead despite a judge issuing a restraining order to restrict it. The proposed plan would cost $425,000 in the first year alone with the heavy price tag of $35,000 for speakers. A grand jury indicted Moore and Carlton as a result of their malicious, illegal actions.

Hopefully government leaders in other states will follow the lead of Idaho and Florida, stopping Critical Race Theory from taking root. Currently, seven states — Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Arizona, and North Carolina — are proposing legislation to ban Critical Race Theory from their public schools. Immediate action is needed by all state and local leaders to protect students and staff of all skin colors, as the invasion of this divisive, racist dogma is fully underway.

Defeat Radical Indoctrination

We need your help. An unprecedented campaign is underway to win the hearts and minds of vulnerable children in classrooms across America with extreme ideologies. Public schools are being transformed into radical indoctrination centers pushing gender redefinition and self-selection, rewriting history, and promoting Critical Race Theory.

It’s not too late to intervene and reverse these new radical policies, practices, and curriculums that go against our country’s best interest and that of our students. The American Center for Transforming Education, a program of Discovery Institute, is defending American ideals and fighting against radical indoctrination in our schools. As a non-profit organization, our work is made possible only by the generosity of our supporters.

Taking action now is critical because those promoting radical ideologies are becoming ever more aggressive in systematically pushing their agenda in our K-12 schools, with alarming success.

Will you join in a growing movement to expose and end this damaging indoctrination taking place in our schools?

Woke Education of Students

Once teachers have been indoctrinated, they press their views on their students, unbeknownst to parents and often despite the views not aligning with the approved curriculum. For example, in January, Seattle Public Schools emailed teachers resources to indoctrinate students into the “abolish the police” movement. The email justified recent violent riots in Seattle, “in the name of social justice” — riots that in one July 2020 weekend alone injured 60 Seattle police officers, as rioters set off explosives, and struck police with rocks, bottles, and wood.

Meanwhile, the woke invasion rages strong in Philadelphia as well. According to Mia Cathell, fifth-grade students were forced “to celebrate ‘black communism’ and stimulate a Black Power rally” in honor of political radical Angela Davis. “As part of the lesson, the teacher asked students to describe Davis’ early life and reflect on her vision of social change.” Students were also instructed to “define communist” in favorable terms. The rally was enacted “to release Davis from prison, where she was once held on charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy in the early 1970s. The students marched onto the stage, holding signs that read ‘Black Power,’ ‘Jail Trump,’ and ‘Free Angela.’” They chanted about Africa and ancestral power, then shouted, “Black Power!” and “Free Angela!” as they stood at the front of the stage.

At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, students were also taught to celebrate Communist Party member Angela Davis. Their classroom learning involved watching the Netflix film titled 13th, with the takeaway that “Criminals are constitutionally deprived of freedom.” Next, the students were lectured concerning components of Critical Race Theory, including intersectionality (race, gender, and systems combining to oppress some while giving privilege to others). They were also accused of microaggression behaviors (indirect or subtle actions that discriminate against racial groups), despite no evidence of such occurring by students.

Academic instruction has been exchanged for radical activism training in Buffalo Public Schools as well. According to the New York State Education Department, the district gravely fails to teach its students: “by fifth grade, only 18 percent of students are proficient in math and 20 percent of students are proficient in English; one-third of all students fail to graduate from high school. The numbers are even worse for African-Americans, who constitute 45 percent of the student population.” These students may not be able to read or understand basic math, but thanks to the activism training, they will be skilled in protesting against the rule of law and demanding that violent criminals be set free.

At an elite prep school in New York, Fieldston School, students are frequently being told, “if you are white and male, you are second in line to speak.” The school believes this is “a normal and necessary redistribution of power.”

The woke invasion involves not only injecting radical indoctrination but also removing the great classics from school curricula — for example, works by William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Dickens — because they supposedly further white privilege. Replacements include “Latinx books, black books, [and] LGBTQ+ books,” as well as a Black Lives Matter-inspired text titled, The Hate U Give.

At the core of this new curriculum is the teaching that America is inherently racist (more commonly described as systemic racism). Students are taught as indisputable fact that their skin color defines them as either advantaged, privileged, and oppressors or disadvantaged, victims, and oppressed. Sadly, the philosophy flies in the face of the racial unity espoused by Martin Luther King Jr. and immortalized in his most famous speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These words were a driving force of the civil rights movement in America. Yet today, those championing Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, and woke education are reversing the heroic and historic work of King and many others who fought for equality in America — including the idea that all people, of all skin colors, be treated with dignity and respect, and judged by their own actions.

Some are pushing back. A group of parents is speaking out at the prestigious Dalton School in Upper East Side New York. The parents expect that the $55,000 they pay in annual tuition will buy education rather than radical indoctrination. Fearing retribution, they sent an anonymous letter to school families that reads, “Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, ‘racist cop’ reenactments in science, ‘de-centering whiteness’ in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class. Wildly inappropriate, many of these classes feel more akin to a Zoom corporate sensitivity-training than to Dalton’s intellectually engaging curriculum.” Dalton’s anti-racism manifesto, issued in December, called for hiring 12 diversity officers, reworking the school’s curriculum to address social injustice, and eliminating high-level academic courses by 2023 unless black student performance is on par with non-blacks.

Similarly, a parent is withdrawing his sixth-grade daughter from the Brearley School in New York due to the school’s “obsession with race” after investing nearly $378,000 in her K-6 education over the past seven years. Communicating his outrage, Andrew Gutmann wrote: “I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs.” He continued, “By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died.” Parents like Gutmann aren’t shelling out astronomical tuition dollars for their students to be taught what to think, especially related to social indoctrination, rather than how to think.

A Chicago area teacher, using a pseudonym to protect her identity, has spoken out about the experience for today’s teachers, who are “being forced to ultimately support the liberal narrative in public education.” She is witnessing public schools serving as “indoctrination centers.” It’s not a stretch to say that public schools are becoming increasingly hostile to non-liberal ideas and people who hold conservative viewpoints. As a black teacher in a largely white school, she believes she’d lose her job if someone learned she’s conservative.

Nicole Neily, President of Parents Defending Education, is leading the charge against the radical indoctrination pouring into K-12 classrooms across the country. The organization provides parents with information to inform and help them navigate the curriculum promoting racial and social justice ideology. Neily recognizes that “thousands of parents are unaware of what’s going on or are deeply disturbed by it but unsure how to fight back, leaving them feeling alone and helpless.” The mission of Parents Defending Education is to empower, expose, and engage parents. Their website provides a network for parents to share anecdotes, obtain resources, and seek political and legal solutions.

Redefining Mathematics

When one thinks this radical miseducation can’t get any more extreme, one finds that even basic mathematical truths are being attacked as racist concepts. For example, a Brooklyn College professor of math education, Laurie Rubel, recently declared that 2+2=4 “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.” As absurd as it sounds, “she was speaking for surprising numbers of academics and teachers.”

The foundation of her statement is postmodernism, a late 20th-century movement characterized by “broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.” The movement, which dominates the humanities and social sciences at most U.S. universities, dismisses objective truth and reality. 

Paul Ernest posits that, applied to mathematics, “Postmodernism rejects a single authoritative way of seeing mathematics, teachers and learners, for each can be seen and interpreted in multiple ways. Mathematics can be seen as axiomatic and logical leading to indubitable conclusions, but it can also be seen as intuitive and playful, open-ended, with surprises and humour…Additionally, it can be seen in its applications in science, information and communication technologies, as well as in everyday life and ethnomathematics. All of these dimensions are part of what makes up mathematics and they all co-exist successfully.”

Co-exist successfully? In other words, unquestionable answers are formed by intuitive thought — meaning “based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning” or without proof or evidence. This postmodern view of math is utterly illogical and unintelligent. If it were true that number combinations were open for individual interpretation, our modern, digital world would cease to function. For example, the binary number system, consisting of combinations of zeros and ones to create codes, is used worldwide and is foundational for how computers and other electronics operate. It cannot operate under the rules of postmodern math.

The Oregon Department of Education has begun training teachers in “ethnomathematics,” with a workbook for “deconstructing racism in mathematics…and dismantling white supremacy.” According to the training guide, white supremacy is present in math classrooms where the goal is finding the right answer: “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false…. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.” Evidently, the authors of the workbook did not pause to think about the implications of their very non-postmodernist statement that mathematical objectivity is “unequivocally false”— which asserts that there is in fact such a thing as truth and falsity. The charge of racism in math instruction doesn’t stop at whether answers are right or wrong. The workbook also claims that requiring students to show their work in math is a sign of white supremacy in the classroom.

Similarly, Seattle Public Schools has employed a K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework. It states that “Western” mathematics as the only legitimate expression of math is a form of power and oppression “used to disenfranchise people and communities of color.” It questions the very essence of mathematical accuracy: “Who gets to say if an answer is right?” An essential question posed within the curriculum framework asks, “How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?”

Journalist Denyse O’Leary asks a very important question regarding the impact of this redefinition of mathematics: “[W]hat about the disadvantaged children who depend on public schools to provide basic literacy and numeracy skills?” Her answer captures what is at stake in the debate: “Well, there are two ways of looking at that. One would be to emphasize the skills; the other would be to undermine their value across society. Critical Theory is firmly decided on the latter.”

O’Leary continues, “Social scientist and mathematician James Lindsay quoted George Orwell (1903–1950) in 1984, ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4. If that is granted, all else follows.’ Shockingly, Lindsey discovered that “many academics, including some mathematicians, are quite comfortable with the idea that 2+2 might = 5.” The practical implication of this philosophy gives pause if one considers what might be the result if airplanes or bridges were designed using math where answers are subjective.

Concluding Thoughts

Tomorrow’s America will be led by today’s students. The indoctrination of our future electorate is producing young people who will blindly support ideologies they have yet to evaluate based on fact. The tsunami of attacks on our children in classrooms across America will leave an irreversible path of destruction if not soon stopped.

But it’s not too late to intervene and reverse these new radical policies, practices, and curriculum that go against our country’s best interest and that of our students. Be courageous — stand up, speak out, and spread the word. Get in touch with your local school district leadership, talk with parents, share what you are seeing, find and support organizations exposing and working to end this damaging indoctrination in our schools. Those holding radical ideologies aren’t shying away from their agenda but are rigorously and strategically pushing it with alarming and accelerating success.

As American public schools continue to fail to effectively educate the majority of students and instead increasingly serve as radical indoctrination centers, do we need to rethink how we fund education? Should school choice be an option for all families? Is it time taxpayer money funds students rather than schools, thereby empowering parents to select the educational option for their children that produces robust student learning and aligns with their values?

Are you concerned about educating the next generation?
The American Center for Transforming Education is a program of Discovery Institute, a non-profit organization fueled by its supporters. Will you help us advance the timely and vital work of transforming our K-12 education system so that it better serves students and their families?