Department Of Education Wisely Retreats From Critical Race Theory

Common sense and decency finally won when Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona abandoned a proposed requirement that grants for civic education incorporate the outlook of the badly flawed 1619 Project.

Likewise, it is reasonable and appropriate for the nation’s schools to teach children about the evils of slavery and Jim Crow without pushing noxious themes common to critical race theory (and its near-equivalents), themes including the assertions that whites are inherently racist, that racism is the defining theme of U.S. history, and that Western civilization writ large and the ideal of the nuclear family both should be undermined.

Cardona’s decision to reverse course came after his department received tens of thousands of public comments against the original proposal, which risked violating three separate federal laws while pushing the historically inaccurate 1619 Project and critical race theory as authoritative assessments of U.S. history.

Last Friday, Cardona wrote of his new approach that the grant program in question “has not, does not, and will not dictate or recommend specific curriculum be introduced or taught in classrooms. Those decisions are — and will continue to be — made at the local level.”

In place of the specific recommendations, the grant program will include as one of two “invitational priorit[ies]” the encouragement of “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.” In theory, this should be unobjectionable, indeed praiseworthy. But that is assuming that bureaucrats administering the program don’t implement a backdoor, de facto test effectively meaning that the only “diverse perspectives” acceptable are those that push racialism. (Congressional overseers and outside analysts should track the grants to guard against this.)

The most important takeaway is that there’s no “binary choice” between the extremes of teaching critical race theory claptrap on one side and neglecting to teach about historical slavery and racism at all. Of course, in many places in the U.S., probably most, students have learned in full context about slavery and racism and the civil rights movement and the backlash against it without also being taught that racism is America’s defining characteristic or that “whiteness” is inherently objectionable.

It is therefore heartening to see a July 20 Real Clear Politics essay by Richard Samuelson, a history professor at California State University, San Bernardino, which proposes a better way to promote good values and historical understanding. Samuelson rejects the racialism-related “Maoist-style struggle session” now common in schools (and corporate “anti-racism” seminars). He seeks to “re-center and re-balance the storyline from day one” of schooling.

Critical race theory and its ilk are “likely to reinforce and deepen racial tribalism,” Samuelson writes, arguing that “the effort to replace the stigmatization of blacks with stigmatization of whites is unlikely to work.”

Instead, he writes: “Teaching Americans to be proud of their country, even as they seek to improve it, is much more likely to bear fruit.” And: “It would be better to wean our children on inspiring stories.”

Citing the great anti-slavery agitator and public intellectual Frederick Douglass as an advocate of that model, Samuelson also notes this reality: “That many African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants and their children integrate into and rise rapidly in the U.S. suggests that racism in the U.S. isn’t anything like it used to be.”

Instruction should combine the horrid examples — the Ku Klux Klan, the brutal repression by Alabama’s Bull Connor — with the triumphs of Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr.

“As the Declaration [of Independence] is our founding document, equality, not racism, is our DNA,” Samuelson writes. “On that basis, we can find a common ground of citizenship that also serves as a guide for the civic education of our children.”

He’s right.

Author: Quin Hillyer

Source: Washington Examiner: Department of Education wisely retreats from critical race theory

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