Blowback against critical race theory has spread across the country, where Republican-majority state legislatures have proposed or passed laws banning critical race theory in school classrooms. Now, academics criticize these efforts as heavy-handed, authoritarian, and restrictive of academic free speech.
The New York Times reported that “a coalition of more than six dozen scholarly and educational groups” signed onto a statement that blasted these legislative limitations. This group of academics, spearheaded by the group PEN America, claimed that these laws suppress academic free speech and infringe on “the right of faculty to teach and of students to learn.” Signers of the statement came from the American Historical Association, American Association of University Professors (known by the acronym AAUP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
PEN America made headlines during the Trump years over its biased criticisms of Trump administration policies.
At least two other groups, the teachers’ union AFT and AAUP, back liberal ideological viewpoints in the K-12 and higher education level. For example, AFT chief Randi Weingarten sparred with Fox News host Martha MacCallum on whether critical race theory belongs in nonpartisan classroom settings. AAUP releases public statements assuring academics’ rights to free speech, yet rarely comes to the defense of conservative or libertarian professors when controversies arise.
Part of the statement claimed that these legislative proposals “suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism in the history of the United States.” The coalition claimed that all educators “must provide an accurate view of the past” to “better prepare” students for the real world.
However, the signers failed to outline why critical race theory is factually-based and therefore needs to be taught in classrooms. Instead, critical race theory supporters tend to rely on phrases and slogans to shame conservatives and parents alike into silence.
Overall, three states (Idaho, Iowa, and Oklahoma) have passed laws banning critical race theory. At least a dozen other states are awaiting upcoming legislative sessions to discuss similar proposals.
For example, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state board of education banned critical race theory this year, said of the theory, “The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read.” DeSantis’s assertion was correct because reading and math test scores plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic in many states due to remote (i.e. virtual or online) learning, yet critical race theory supporters insist on pushing the theory in America’s classrooms.
Critical race theory is the belief that the United States has always been a racist country and that it was built on a racist past. One of its chief promotion vehicles, The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” famously claimed that America’s true founding was in 1619 when the first slave ship came to the United States from Africa and asserted that America’s founding was racist in origin.
Scholars criticized legislative efforts across the country to ban critical race theory from being taught in classrooms, without recognizing that they typically engage in one-sided, ideological partisanship in higher education.