CRT: Circular Discussions & Opposing Visions

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of the “CRT” in school debates. I put “CRT” in quotes as I understand that Critical Race Theory is a legal study not specifically being taught in schools. But the underlying presuppositions for its philosophy are what is being used to create some teaching materials in schools.

The latest incidence of “not CRT being taught in schools” involves an Atlanta mother who just filed a lawsuit involving her daughter being segregated into a black only class. A black mother is suing her school district for segregating her black daughter as directed by the black principal. How much of this is going to happen before “CRT” proponents step back and at least rethink whatever it is that is “not being taught in schools.” What is going on in a culture where a principal can do this and not only think it’s a good idea, but that it wouldn’t come up against any objections? Where did she get these ideas?

Not only is the subject matter getting old, but the discussions have become incredibly circular. None of the articles written or the television debates are working towards any solution. They usually go something like this:

  1. “CRT” opponent says: “CRT is divisive and at the very least leads to racism.”
  2. “CRT” fan says: “Actually, CRT is an academic framing of legal matters that children have no context or knowledge to understand. So no. CRT is not being taught in schools.”

Both of these statements are true, but the primary concern is not being addressed.

Parents are upset that their kids are being racially segregated, bullied, and told things about their character is completely due to the color of their skin. Parents don’t necessarily care about the Marxist or Postmodern theorists behind the Critical Theories. They are engaging in their paternal instincts and protecting their children. One side is arguing theory, and unfortunately, we are engaging in a theoretical argument with them. And this is not the first time we’ve made this mistake, nor is it the first time they’ve made this mistake.

Not everyone remembers, but there were theories about the manner in which we should construct society which were pushed by people early in the twentieth century. These ideas were praised by leaders in Europe and even the U.S. Presidents of the time. In fact, several countries implemented these ideas to one extent or another, and in their own ways. That’s when things got interesting.

It wasn’t until after World War II that the fruits of these theories were revealed to the embarrassed supporters. As the allied forces marched into Auschwitz and the pictures of the concentration camps started to trickle into the news, it demanded some answers. And it got worse. Some of the same things were going on in the Soviet Union, but to an even larger number of victims. By this time, people who were sure that these social constructionists’ theories were the wave of the future had nowhere to hide. The emaciated faces of the living and the dead had something to say about the practical application of these theories.

The supporters of those social theories finally came up against the empiricism of what happens when their ideas are put into practice. And that is what we again need to focus on: what actually happens on the ground and in our schools.

But if you understand the worldviews of these opposing groups, it all makes sense. Nobody has detailed the reasons for this split better than Thomas Sowell in his finest book, A Conflict of Visions.

“Logic is of course not the only test of a theory. Empirical evidence is crucial intellectually, and yet historically social visions have shown a remarkable ability to evade, suppress, or explain away discordant evidence, to a degree that scientific theories cannot match…The hybrid vision of fascism, once touted as ‘the wave of the future,’ has been devastated by the experience of World War II.” — Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

The thesis is that we all have presuppositions that function as “pre-analytic cognitive act(s)” which shape the manner everything beyond that act is perceived.

The two poles of this axis are:

The Constrained Vision — man’s nature is fixed and limited, therefore our institutions should be built to recognize its limits and limiting the power of people, as they are inherently imperfectible and corruptible. Knowledge is an amalgamation of the collective experience of our ancestors, often referred to as tradition.

The Unconstrained Vision — man is inexhaustibly malleable and perfectible, as evidenced by the abilities of those of great intellectual and moral sentiments. Those who have achieved greater moral and intellectual sentiments therefore have a duty and obligation to guide humanity in building a better society. Knowledge is articulated rationality and they have a disdain for tradition.

This is in part why we continue to see people upset with the actual racial segregation of children, told that CRT is a legal theory not being taught in schools. One group is reviewing the empirical evidence, and the other is arguing the merits of an abstract idea. They are arguing right past each other. But the evidence can be avoided for only so long, so we need to stay focused on the best tool: empiricism.

The way to fight against the implementation of bad theories, as evidenced by what finally worked as World War II ended, is to get the practical evidence in front of people. It won’t happen immediately as it took millions of dead bodies and stories of torture before supporters of 20th Century collectivism thought twice about their ideas. (Yes, I know they have already forgotten those lessons.)

This is not to say that the totalitarian practices then are at the same level as what’s now happening in schools, but the divergent worldviews are again creating the same difficulty in communication.

They will keep drawing us into a group of intellectual distractions focused on definitions and language. Let them have it and focus on what actually happens in affected schools.

Make them explain why Atlanta school children are being racially segregated. Ask them if they support Buffalo public schools’ claim that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism and should force kindergarteners to watch videos of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence.” Do they think it’s ok that in Cupertino, CA, instructors forced a class of third-graders to deconstruct their racial identities then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” As a teacher, would they also give a student of mixed ethnicities a failing grade for refusing to confess his “white dominance?”

And if these, along with the many other incidents, have nothing to do with “CRT”, then make them tell us where it’s coming from. As parents, it’s not our job to take on the academic theories underlying pedagogy. An elementary school is not a marketplace of ideas.

It’s our job to protect our children from obvious abuse.

Parents don’t care why educators decide to commit acts of racism. They just want it to stop.

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