Education

Critical Race Theory, State & Local Schools

Western North Carolina – According to the online Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Critical race theory (CRT), [is 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 color.” Many schools across the country are now teaching CRT as part of their curriculum in classrooms. 

The Britannica goes on to say, “Critical race theorists hold 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.”

“CRT was officially organized in 1989, at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory, though its intellectual origins go back much farther, to the 1960s and ’70s,” the Britannica says. “Its immediate precursor was the critical legal studies (CLS) movement, which dedicated itself to examining how the law and legal institutions serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized.”

According to Britannica, CLS, “an offshoot of Marxist-oriented critical theory, may also be viewed as a radicalization of early 20th-century legal realism, a school of legal philosophy according to which judicial decision making, especially at the appellate level, is influenced as much by nonlegal—political or ideological—factors as by precedent and principles of legal reasoning. Like CLS scholars, critical race theorists believed that political liberalism was incapable of adequately addressing fundamental problems of injustice in American society (notwithstanding legislation and court rulings advancing civil rights in the 1950s and ’60s) because its emphasis on the equitable treatment under the law of all races (“color blindness”) rendered it capable of recognizing only the most overt and obvious racist practices, not those that were relatively indirect, subtle, or systemic.”

CRT in the State

The North Carolina State House “passed a bill that would prohibit the exclusive teaching of Critical Race Theory in North Carolina public school classrooms,” according to a report by David Bass in a Carolina Journal News Service article. 

“The 66-48 vote on May 12 followed a scorched-earth debate in which Democrats called the measure anti-American and hateful, while Republicans countered that it was focused on ensuring equity in schools,” Bass said.

The article said, “House Bill 324 would prohibit public schools from promoting the idea that one race or sex is inherently superior to another; an individual is [a] racist, sexist, or oppressive based solely on their race or sex (consciously or unconsciously); an individual should receive special treatment solely because of his or her race or sex; moral character is determined by race or sex; or based solely on race or sex, an individual bears responsibility for actions taken in the past by members of that same race or sex.”

NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the first Black person to hold that position, stated after the passage of the law praising the bill:

“North Carolina’s school children should be taught how to think—not what to think. Radical leftists complain that this legislation is ‘white-washing history’ and ‘academic apartheid.’ Students should absolutely learn the horrific facts associated with slavery, Jim Crow, and other dark times in our nation’s history. They should not, however, be subjected to pseudo-science social justice initiatives like the ‘1619 Project’ and ‘Critical Race Theory,’ which seek to divide us along racial lines and teach that the systems of our Republic and the history of our great American experiment are shameful.

“Our children, regardless of their background, should know that it is their shared and diverse experiences that make America great, and learning about those experiences should bring them together—not drive them apart,” Robinson added. “This legislation ensures that our students will be taught that we all have value, regardless of who we are—or who our ancestors were.”

Local School Teachings

The Tribune checked with four school systems (Asheville City, Buncombe County, Henderson County and Madison County) in the area to find out if CRT is taught in their school systems. 

“The Critical Race Theory Program is not a part of our curriculum,” said Will Hoffman, Superintendent of Madison County Schools. “We follow the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in our schools at each grade level.”

Stacia Harris, Director of Communications for Buncombe County Schools, echoed Hoffman. “BCS adheres to the North Carolina Standards for teaching all subjects, and the state does not have a standard for Critical Race Theory,” she said in an email.

“The course content (standards) for all required social studies courses comes from the state, specifically the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction,” said Molly Gorsuch with Henderson County Schools. “Ultimately, whatever is selected and confirmed by the State Board of Education becomes the curriculum for all North Carolina public schools.” Asked if that were a yes or no to the question, Gorsuch did not respond.

Asheville City School Communication Director Ashley Thublin did not respond to the Tribune’s inquiry by press time.

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