Visit the schools and see for yourself
Critical Race Theory is a hot topic lately. One of our board members suggested that we educate ourselves on this and discuss it.
To educate myself on the subject, I read many books, articles and articles written by some of the founders of CRT and by reviews of their work. I met Denise Beronio, a member of our community who is fiercely against CRT and who provided me with more material. I watched a video made by Paul Jensen, a district school librarian. And I attended two town hall events that the district organized for community members to talk about CRT.
As I researched CRT, it became clear that there is no single, crisp and precise definition. The founders of the movement don’t even agree on what it is. To many, the CRT represents any racial social justice issue the Liberals “woke up” to.
After talking with those concerned with CRT in our classrooms, a few common themes emerged that they were against.
• All white people are oppressors, and all people of color are oppressed.
• Whites should feel guilty and ashamed of the actions of other whites decades and centuries ago (white guilt).
• All white people are inherently racist.
• Strictly on the basis of race, students of color should be given additional resources or the rating scales should be lowered so that they can achieve better grades more easily.
I know for a fact that our grading standards are color blind. Individuals are treated as individuals and not as members of a race. But I’ve heard stories of corporate awareness trainings that divide people by race, and I didn’t want those types of events or the ideas in the bullet points to be taught as fact in our schools.
Even though CRT is not part of our curriculum and is not part of Nevada Academic Content Standards, I was curious if any of its themes made their way into our schools in a way that teaches students about racist beliefs.
So I spoke with dozens of current teachers, administrators and students and spent time in the classrooms. During these hours of discussion and observation, a few elements emerged:
• A teacher admitted that several years ago a student denounced him for presenting something in a biased way. He was almost immediately contacted by school administrators and an investigation was conducted.
• Not a single student told me that they had had an experience where a teacher brought his political views to the classroom.
• The district has already implemented a three-page, five-step process for responding to objections to the course materials. You can read it on the district website: By-law 219 (b).
After my discussions, I was absolutely convinced that no political opinion, including the most controversial teachings found in the CRT, were being forced on our students through approved programs. Am I naive enough to believe that something that sounds overtly political or “CRT” is never said by any of our teachers? No I’m not. But it is not our practice and policies are in place if and when this happens.
The question then becomes: if it’s not taught in our district, why not just make a policy that bans CRT?
My concern with this approach is twofold:
First, I believe that a general policy banning cathode ray tubes can have unintended negative consequences. Will history teachers have to deal with race issues to make sure they don’t break politics? What if a student raises their hand and specifically asks about the CRT? Shouldn’t the teacher be able to guide an unbiased discussion of the topic if it is relevant to the lesson? A comprehensive policy would have a chilling effect on discussions and debates.
Second, I just don’t believe in censorship. Going through history and the people, groups and nations that practice censorship, I don’t want to be a part of this club. Open debate and open dialogue are the key to democracy. Censorship is a very slippery and very dangerous slope. If you believe in the First Amendment, you don’t just believe in your right to speak, you believe in free speech for anyone who says things you hate. There are limits to the First Amendment in schools, but I’m happy to be on the free speech side and not the censorship side.
Ultimately, I trust our teachers, their professionalism and dedication to impartially teaching. I know there are those who will claim that CRT is alive and well in the neighborhood. But I just don’t agree with them and invite any of them or anyone in the community to talk to a wide variety of teachers and students and hang out. in our schools. I am sure you will come away more than impressed with our teachers and their teaching.
Author’s Note: Last week, the Douglas County School Board voted 7-0 not to create a policy on or with reference to critical race theory. I’m a member of this seven-person board and wanted to share in a larger forum why I voted the way I did. I represent 14.3 percent of what this council thinks and feels. Therefore, this letter speaks only for me and not for the board as a whole or for any of the other directors individually.