The School Board and other elected officials are receiving a lot of heat about children being taught Critical Race Theory (CRT) as part of a nationally coordinated campaign to push back on anything that even sniffs of anti-racism in public schools.
It's happening here and here and here and here. The list is long. It's a national anti-CRT rallying cry, and if it feels eerily similar to the anti-Common Core movement a few years ago, you're on the right path to the moneymakers behind it all.
GOP-led states are jamming through their anti-CRT bills, Tennessee of course being one of the first movers in this super urgent matter that's of much higher priority than, say, fully funding our schools or addressing why we're near the bottom of every education state ranking year after year.
CRT has been around as a framework for a few decades now (since the 1970's), but you probably didn't hear about it until recently because it's been almost solely centered in higher level academia with advanced studies of the role that racism has played in policies, laws, and our legal systems. If you haven't read books such as The Color of Law, it's highly recommended as an easy way to understand the way race has historically played a significant (and very legal) role in what Americans have and haven't been allowed to do depending on the color of their skin.
If you're speaking on the topic of CRT or even throwing around that term, you're likely confusing it with the request by various parents, educators, and historians to improve the historical accuracy of the curriculum that's in our schools, or to provide teachers with professional development on how to navigate lesson plans that include slavery or any challenging aspects of American history. This confusion is intentional, as the intellectual framework or theory has been co-opted to broadly mean anything that has to do with race.
Did you know returning WWII soldiers who were Black were excluded from the GI bill which backed mortgages for veterans, and thus couldn't purchase homes in the suburban developments springing up all over the country? It was 100% legal for HOA covenants to ban or limit Black people from owning a home in their development....with those who say the practice continues to this day.
We're all taught that schools were segregated by race until the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court in 1954, which fueled the Civil Rights movement. School desegregation did not, of course, just happen overnight after that ruling, with multiple lawsuits continuing into the 1970's as various parties (including private schools) fought hard to keep their institutions separated. So much so that segregation academies sprung up all over the South so white parents had a way to avoid sending their children to newly integrated public schools - we're looking at you, Brentwood Academy, Franklin Road Academy, and Nashville Christian School. Notably, some of these local schools have been really doubling down on their diversity & inclusion efforts in recent years and some associated drama has been unfolding.
Eighty-nine years after the Declaration of Independence, the 13th Amendment was ratified and race-based slavery was illegal. Somehow the state of Texas didn't get word for 2.5 more years, and thus Juneteeth marks the official end of legal slavery in America. We definitely don't remember being taught about that in school.
What about voting?
"The 15th Amendment, which sought to protect the voting rights of African American men after the Civil War, was adopted into the U.S. Constitution in 1870. Despite the amendment, by the late 1870s discriminatory practices were used to prevent Black citizens from exercising their right to vote, especially in the South. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that legal barriers were outlawed at the state and local levels if they denied African Americans their right to vote under the 15th Amendment."
As a side note: anytime anyone celebrates the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 after the women's suffrage movement demanded voting rights, it's worth noting this amendment only applied to white women.
"Despite the passage of the amendment and the decades-long contributions of Black women to achieve suffrage, poll taxes, local laws and other restrictions continued to block women of color from voting. Black men and women also faced intimidation and often violent opposition at the polls or when attempting to register to vote. It would take more than 40 years for all women to achieve voting equality."
Black. people. could. not. vote. in America. until. just 56 years ago. Think about that. Like, really think about it please.
So it's a head-scratcher when some people proclaim (often loudly) that studying these parts of our history is racist or traumatic or makes people feel bad about themselves. If it hurts your feelings to understand and comprehend the full picture of American history, including how skin color was built into our laws to discriminate, and how that has and continues to shape modern-day life, then maybe sit with that for a few minutes and ask yourself why it bothers you so much.
***But learning the factual parts of history as it relates to someone's race is not teaching CRT.***
Back to schools and all the pearl-clutching that's taking place today:
Here's what the HB 0580 / SB 0623, Tennessee's "Anti-CRT" Bill bill, does and does not do:
(TL;DR - it makes it illegal for schools to do something they're already NOT doing, and scares teachers to death and has made their jobs even harder. Well done.)
It prohibits public schools from including or promoting the following concepts as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program, or allowing teachers or other employees of the LEA or public charter school to use supplemental instructional materials that include or promote the following concepts:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual's race or sex;
(4) An individual's moral character is determined by the individual's race or sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual's race or sex;
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex;
(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist;
(9) Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government;
(10) Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people; or
(11) Ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual's race or sex.
It does not prohibit public schools from including, as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program, or from allowing teachers or other employees of the LEA or public charter school to use supplemental instructional materials that include:
(1) The history of an ethnic group, as described in textbooks and instructional materials adopted in accordance with present law concerning textbooks and instructional materials;
(2) The impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history;
(3) The impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic region; or
(4) Historical documents that are permitted under present law, such as the national motto, the national anthem, the state and federal constitutions, state and federal laws, and supreme court decisions.
And if this new law is broken?
If the commissioner of education finds that public school knowingly violates the prohibitions described in (1)-(11), then this amendment requires the commissioner to withhold state funds, in an amount determined by the commissioner, from the LEA or public charter school until the LEA or public charter school provides evidence to the commissioner that the LEA or public charter school is no longer in violation.
So the really funny part is the "anti-CRT" bill doesn't actually ban the teaching of the role of race and the historical oppression of people based on their race. It says "keep on doing what you're doing, public schools, because we know teaching factual and balanced history is important to kids."
Critical Race Theory has not ever, and is not now, being "taught" in Williamson County Schools. DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) efforts are not CRT.
Ironically, this national and local backlash from newly-formed groups like Moms for Liberty to the longstanding push from parents and community members for the schools to address, or even acknowledge, ongoing race-based issues is why there are academics who study the ongoing role of race in American society.
To some, it's not "age appropriate" for 2nd graders to learn about Ruby Bridges or MLK, Jr's "I have a dream" speech, but any efforts to address race-related bullying in that same age group is called unnecessary and a made up problem.
What Fostering Healthy Solutions was brought into Williamson County Schools to do is to get a feel for the scope and significance of these issues, such as assessing and eliminating the disproportionate number of minority students being referred to law enforcement and school suspension rates, or if maybe universal screenings would help close the gap on access to AP/ honors courses and gifted programs which rely on teacher referrals? Can we diversify our curriculum to tell more varied perspectives, or represent authors and stories and imagery of people of color and from various walks of life, like in the real world?
That's DEI work. No one - and I repeat no one - is learning CRT in public schools.
CRT is a buzzword that's being politically misappropriated and vastly misunderstood, and frankly just flat out misused. We're all a little embarrassed for those throwing a hissy fit over this and just hope our teachers know the vast majority of Williamson County residents know better and are behind you every step of the way.