February 25, 2022
By Timothy Sandefur
Parents across the country are rejecting the falsehoods of Critical Race Theory (CRT)—the idea that America is “systemically” racist and that such virtues as objectivity and literacy are inherently “white”—and are demanding to know about what goes on in the classrooms their tax dollars pay for. CRT partisans have reacted by arguing that transparency rules are a form of “censorship.” That’s nonsense, as I explain in The Dispatch this morning:
Transparency doesn’t mean schools can’t teach sensitive topics. When a group in Tennessee objected to a lesson plan that taught Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the state’s education board rejected the complaint, and rightly so. But more importantly, teachers employed by the government have no constitutional right to tell students whatever they wish; they’re required to obey curriculum rules set by local and state laws. Parents, by contrast, do have a fundamental constitutional right to oversee their children’s upbringing. Only someone who thinks schools exist to rescue kids from their own parents could object—as the 1619 Project’s Nikole Hannah-Jones recently did—to “the idea that parents should decide what’s being taught.”
CRT proponents do, in fact, think that. CRT is an activist mindset, not a scholarly theory—as education expert Jonathan Butcher recently observed, it’s “meant to be applied … it’s not just an idea; it’s effectively a verb.” Its principal aim is to take white kids from their inevitably racist households and transform them into new, more “woke” citizens, while conscripting black students into cultural and political activism—and even violence. A century ago, the progressive President Woodrow Wilson said that the ideal school would “make a son as unlike his father as possible,” and while today’s progressives would eschew Wilson’s gendered language, they still embrace his sentiment. Most parents, however, would prefer schools to equip students with the knowledge necessary to pursue their own happiness, rather than propagating historical falsehoods to recruit kids into a radical political movement. That’s why CRT advocates such as Hannah-Jones view transparency requirements as a threat. Actual scholars propounding genuine scholarly theories typically welcome publicity and discussion. But publicity is the last thing CRT’s partisans want.
Timothy Sandefur is the Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.