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The woke revolution in the classroom is about to go federal. In an early but revelatory move, President Joe Biden’s Department of Education has signaled its intent to impose the most radical forms of Critical Race Theory on America’s schools, very much including the 1619 Project and the so-called anti-racism of Ibram X. Kendi (which advocates a massive and indefinite expansion of reverse discrimination).
Biden’s Department of Education has just released the text of a proposed rule establishing priorities for grants in American History and Civics Education programs. That rule gives preference to grant “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse perspectives.” It goes on to cite and praise The New York Times’ “landmark” 1619 Project and the work of Critical Race Theorist Kendi as leading examples of the sort of ideas the Biden administration wants to spread.
The programs immediately targeted by Biden’s new priority criteria for grants are small. Once in place, however, those criteria will undoubtedly influence the much larger and vastly more dangerous “Civics Secures Democracy Act.” That bill would appropriate $1 billion a year, for six years, for history and civic education.
Support for leftist “action civics” is already written into the priority criteria of the bill itself. The anodyne-sounding criteria — favoring grants targeted to “underserved” populations and the mitigation of various racial, ethnic and linguistic achievement gaps — would be interpreted as a green light to fund Critical Race Theory in schools. The draft rule for grant priority makes it clear that this is indeed the Biden administration’s intent.
The rule explicitly endorses the wave of woke Critical Race Theory sweeping through America’s schools. It also expresses support for “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” the ultra-woke and utterly politicized pedagogy derived from Critical Race Theory.
The sprinkling of congressional Republicans and conservative education establishment figures who have foolishly bought into bogus “bipartisan” efforts to revive the teaching of American history and civics need to repudiate their misbegotten alliances. We needn’t wait to see how the Biden administration will implement federal efforts to support American history and civics. This new rule tells us all we need to know. We are set for a huge showdown over federal efforts to press leftist action civics and Critical Race Theory on the states. Here is what needs to be done.
Above all, the federal Civics Secures Democracy Act must be stopped. The state-level grant money is large enough that the leftist education bureaucrats who dominate even in red states will have a clear field to apply for federal funding.
That is why it is urgently necessary for states to pass laws barring action civics and Critical Race Theory from the K-12 curriculum and teacher training. Without such laws in place, it will be almost impossible to resist the carrots and sticks soon to be deployed by the Biden Education Department with the aim of forcing action civics and Critical Race Theory onto America’s schools.
There are some legitimate concerns about barring the core ideas of Critical Race Theory from the K-12 curriculum. It is a mistake, however, to see such proposals as interfering with free speech or academic freedom.
Barring advocacy of Critical Race Theory from courses in public universities would indeed violate academic freedom and freedom of speech. I oppose such state-level moves, although I do think it’s possible to bar Critical Race Theory-based training outside the classroom for faculty, staff and students at public universities.
At the K-12 level, however, states and school districts enjoy considerable authority over curriculum. K-12 teachers have very limited free-speech rights when carrying out their classroom responsibilities, at which time they are rightly charged with teaching from the approved curriculum.
That is not to say that barring the advocacy of certain theories or ideas from the K-12 curriculum by state law is free of danger. For one thing, it’s important to give due deference to local control over curriculum. The best way to live with our differences is to keep curricular decisions at the local level to the greatest extent possible.
Another risk: Prohibiting certain ideas could create martyrs and messy enforcement situations with he said/she said accusations between students, parents and teachers. Against these risks, however, is the fact that we are talking about teaching young children to feel guilt and anguish simply because of the color of their skin.
Adapted from National Review.
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