The Motte and Bailey of "Schools Aren't Really Teaching CRT"
I see a lot of objections in the CRT curriculum debate that amount to 'schools aren't really teaching CRT'. I don't know whether it is, I don't have school aged children. But I want to react to the form of the objection, not its validity.
Others have commented on this better, but this reads like a word game deflection. When one says "teaching CRT", I see four possible readings.
- Teach what CRT is at an object level.
- Teach central assumptions or concepts of CRT as object lessons
- Teach other concepts through a CRT lens injected with CRT lessons / ideas / conclusions / morals
- Teach ideas and concepts that have been absorbed into the CRT memeplex.
Quickly, I find objecting on grounds of point 4 tedious and a lot of goalpost shifting. (aka 'That's not really CRT!'). CRT doesn't have an orthodox canon, and I read this as progressives upset that conservatives have finally found a sticky memeplex (much like BLM, anti-racist, etc) that succinctly conveys to non-wonks a "you know when you see it" concept. I don't care if the content in question actually descended from the Frankfurt school or not, and neither do the people fighting this. Its a noncentral fallacy.
But here's my real point. Obviously number 1 isn't being taught to elementary children. And its not just because it's too advanced for children I didn't encounter theoretical lenses in education until graduate school, where I studied Education. Because at that level I was learning about education, not just being educated.
This is almost like objecting that schools aren't teaching Common Core because kids aren't being taught about Common Core, its philosophy, assumptions, or history. That's not what it means! Only educators are taught Common Core in that sense. When you say it's taught in schools, you mean, schools are using Common Core to teach math.
yet that seems to be a common strawman defense that comes up a lot to shift goal posts. Nobody is arguing that school children's are being taught CRT itself, and 'look at a curriculum' is not proof that it isn't being taught.
History, Science, Literature could all be taught through a CRT lens (2 and 3) yet be called History, Science, and Literature simply.
In fact part of the goal is to present this lens as normalized, de-biased presentation of the facts to the point that many teachers have already integrated it into their own perspective so.
let me give you an example that blurs the two. Although my focus was adult education, I had to take classes in my PhD program with all education PHDs. First of all, I don't want to argue from authority, but I have sat in classrooms with future leaders of education in America, and yes there is a very large contingent bought into Critical Theory wholesale, have completely absorbed it as 'the correct model' and plan to spend the rest of their career pushing it.
But to my example, one of those shared classes was about equity in schooling. It was about equity, but it was also taught through a critical emancipatory lens. Because we were all PHDs and it was assumed we were all 'hip to the cause', the instructor was open about that. But, also as a PHD student, you can tell.
When I say, it was taught through a critical emancipatory lens, I mean that the goals, perspectives, objectives, and lessons of the class all adopted CT framing. We were explicitly encouraged to become activists to get involved in changing the system, to fight injustice, etc. The class had an explicit goal of raising awareness of inequity and inspiring action against it.
But consider, a class on equity in schools could be taught from a different lens. A liberal / humanist perspective might present understanding of the topic as its own good, with a somewhat dispassionate respect for what the learner does with it as a decision of their own growth.
It could be taught from a cognitivist perspective, with more of a focus on accumulation of knowledge and testing for retention.
It could have been taught from a constructivist viewpoint, focused on our own change in meaning making after encountering this topic, but without the explicit call to particular action and social conclusions.
Those are neither exhaustive nor completely discrete. But the claim that CRT is being used in, say, a history lesson about slavery is that conclusions, socialization, perspectives, calls to action, epistemic inquiry, ideas on the democratic good, etc are all drawing from the well of a particular ideology with a particular goal of re-enforcing a particular frame of reference.
For that to be true. There is no need for the word CRT to every enter the lesson plan, be uttered to the students, or even at a meta level, to ever be told to the instructor.