Is Critical Race Theory (CRT) working its way into Colorado K-12 schools? Some say “no”, citing the lack of technical legal theory appearing in classrooms. However, Colorado parents are rightfully concerned that CRT’s regressive and divisive principles are infiltrating public schools. It’s crucial to assess this question accurately, for the sake of all kids.
Colorado school districts are increasingly embracing race essentialism, a core tenet of CRT, which trains children to focus on their differences, and believe that race is the most important determinant of their identity. According to this ideology, our nation’s institutions and founding principles must be “dismantled” in order to achieve equal group outcomes. To proponents of this ideology, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrong to promote judging others by the content of our character instead of the color of our skin.
Despite claims that Colorado schools “don’t teach critical race theory,” the National Education Association (NEA)—the country’s largest and most influential teachers’ union—openly endorses CRT in classroom; the Colorado Education Association is an NEA affiliate. The NEA recently stated that CRT is “reasonable and appropriate for curriculum.” The chair of the Colorado Senate Education Committee agrees, declaring that schools “have used CRT…for years” and is “appropriate” to continue teaching to kids.
No wonder parents are concerned that CRT is infiltrating schools, despite claims to the contrary.
If we dismiss parents’ concerns by claiming CRT’s technical legal theory isn’t taught in K-12 classrooms, then we’re missing the point. The point is that the theory’s regressive principles—race essentialism, neo-segregation, and the assertion that skin color determines a person’s power or victimhood—are now showing up in K-12 school districts.
Take Douglas County School District (DCSD), for example. DCSD recently implemented an equity policy, as part of a “system-wide shift,” which originally claimed that meritocracy is a “myth.” To help implement the policy, the district hired the Gemini Group (whose clients include the Colorado Department of Education), which trained teachers that equity is about “outcomes,” not opportunity, that the “white, male, Christian, straight” culture has “harmed so many,” and that “systems…need to be dismantled,” regardless of whether parents agree or not. DCSD paused their relationship with the Gemini Group only after significant parent pushback.
Currently, the No Place for Hate program is in more than 35 DCSD schools. While it has some positive elements, the national activist group that runs it also teaches kids to hyper-focus on their differences, and that they should “move on from kindness” to become systems-changing activists.
DCSD leadership has promoted messages calling for “dismantle[ing] the color-blind framework” in education and claiming that 2-year-olds can “internalize racial bias,” which perpetuates “white supremacy” and “racial hierarchy in American society.”
DCSD hired an activist to tell 13 year-olds that “institutional oppression affects…millions of lives” in this country. She asserted that only a “white nationalist” could disagree, which ignores leading Black intellectuals speaking out against this orthodoxy. Children in our districts are now assigned “Stamped,” a book by Ibram Kendi, who says “the only remedy for past discrimination is present discrimination.”
Training kids to fixate on skin color—to think the color of their skin defines what they can achieve, and that America’s institutions are irredeemably racist and need to be dismantled, will not help any child succeed. That divisive and dispiriting message is antithetical to the Civil Rights movement—it is regressive, not progressive—and is a message that people across demographics reject.
What’s progressive is to teach the full and balanced history of our country, including our history of racial injustice and the great progress we’ve made as we’ve striven to more fully live up to our founding principles of equality, individual rights, and equal justice for all. Upholding, not rejecting our founding ideals is essential for continued progress.
Fortunately, our non-partisan organization, the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), was founded to uphold these principles–promoting civil rights for all Americans based on a common culture of shared humanity. FAIR promotes our mutual dignity, that we’re unique individuals with self-determination, and that we should judge by content of character, not color of skin. This mentality helps build resilient, confident, tolerant children prepared to thrive and reach their fullest potential.
Please join our local FAIR chapters in Douglas County or Denver by going to fairforall.org.
Will Johnson, from Highlands Ranch, writes frequently on Colorado education issues.
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