The escalating discussion across America that has been ignited by the debate over the merits of critical race theory (CRT) and whether it should be taught in our nation’s public schools is approaching fever pitch.
The struggle to keep our nation’s children from being brainwashed by CRT’s “reverse racism” (how else do you describe an ideology that judges everyone by the immutable characteristic of their ethnicity and skin pigmentation?) has commenced nationwide.
One predictable early flashpoint is in my home state of Texas. Parents have responded with justifiable outrage as CRT has been unmasked as the corrosive and divisive ideology that it is in some media outlets and as parents have been exposed to it themselves during their children’s virtual schooling due to the COVID pandemic.
Even in San Francisco (woke “heaven” or “hell,” depending on your perspective), at least three sitting school board members are now being opposed for reelection by candidates who are against CRT.
In Texas, the Republican-controlled Legislature has passed a law (House Bill 3979), which limits how teachers can discuss race, current events and public policy issues in social studies classes. The bill also forbids teachers from what has been the fairly common practice of giving students extra credit for social justice and political advocacy activity.
This part of the bill was a response to the increasingly common practice of teachers indoctrinating students using CRT and then sending them out to protest as “social justice warriors” and giving them extra credit for their activities. The bill does still allow teachers to give extra credit for non-partisan volunteer work on projects like community food banks.
The law, which goes into effect Sept. 1, states that teachers cannot be forced (through curricular mandates, etc.) to discuss current events or debates over public policy. However, if they do choose to do so, they must approach the subject with “diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has now called the Legislature back into special session and upon his recommendation, the state Senate has passed Senate Bill 3, which includes much more wide-scale restrictions to include all curriculum K-12, including courses in ethnic studies. The bill awaits approval by the state House of Representatives (which does not have a quorum because a large percentage of the Democrat members have notoriously gone AWOL on their COVID-plagued exile in Washington, D.C.).
On a positive note, SB 3 also specifies and requires the state’s students be taught about America’s founding documents as well as such events as the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The bill also requires students to be exposed to excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. As a sidebar, this last item impressed me.
I went to Texas public schools K-12 and was not introduced to the remarkable de Tocqueville’s work until my first week as a freshman at Princeton. As part of freshman orientation, we had to read de Tocqueville and B.F. Skinner, thus symbolizing what would be the heights (de Tocqueville) and the depths (Skinner) of my four-year sojourn in the Ivy League.
Predictably, the same teachers’ unions that declared a culture war against CRT opponents earlier this summer at their NEA Convention are shouting, “Shouldn’t the students be exposed to the persistent racism that unmistakably runs through our nation’s history and inevitably impacts the present?” “What about academic freedom?”
First, nothing in the legislation proposed, or already passed, prohibits the teaching of America’s history, “warts and all.” What it would prohibit is The New York Times’ nefarious 1619 Project, which asserts absurdly that America was founded on slavery and racism in 1619, not on freedom and equality in 1776. What it would prohibit is teaching that all whites are racists and oppressors, and all blacks are victims and oppressed, which only perpetuates and increases racial animosity.
Second, nothing in this legislation violates “academic freedom.” We are talking about the public’s schools which we pay for with our taxes. The public has the right, and indeed the obligation, to monitor and define what is taught in their schools to their children. The teachers are the public’s employees and public servants. If they, in good conscience, cannot abide by the guidelines implemented by the public’s elected representatives, they should resign and teach in a private school setting that is more in line with their personal philosophy.
An event that occurred many years ago now illustrates this point. I was living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex and a debate was raging about the curriculum on sex education in one of the major school districts in the area where I resided.
The school district put out a publication with an article written by the school superintendent titled, “The New Religious Right: A Threat to Our Schools, Our Jobs, and Our Students.” I confronted him both in print and in person (where was the internet when I really needed it? Alas, it had not been invented yet.) I informed the superintendent that he was wrong. Not once, not twice, but on all three counts.
His assumption of proprietorship of the public’s schools was incorrect. They are the public’s schools, the public’s jobs, and the public’s children, not the school district’s. The superintendent’s response (he had evidently been briefed that all three of my children were attending private Christian schools which happened to be more racially diverse than the public school district in question) was to inquire if I had any children in the district’s schools, and if not, what right did I have to intervene and express my objections to the school district’s curriculum?
I replied, “Is your school district supported by local property taxes?” “If the answer is yes (and it was), I am in your district. I pay taxes, so you work for me and I have the right, an obligation, and a responsibility to monitor and supervise what you are doing with, or to, our children.”
Based on the public response to our exchange, a significant majority of the public agreed with me. I hope and pray they still do and they will act accordingly. Our country’s future may very well depend upon it.
NEXT WEEK: “What should be the ‘Christian’ response to America’s identity crisis?”
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.