You’ve heard it before: Critical race theory is an obscure legal academic school of thought that definitely isn’t seeping into our public schools. Ergo, any conservative criticism of “critical race theory” in education is factually incorrect at best and a dog whistle to whites at worst.
Newly minted Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin is well aware that “there’s not a course called critical race theory” — but, in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” this week, he laid out how its ideas have seeped into our education system and why he’s taking “divisive concepts” out of the classroom.
Opposition to critical race theory and its application in education was one of the motivating factors behind Youngkin’s surprise win in November’s gubernatorial election. It was part of wider dissatisfaction with unaccountable school boards across the state of Virginia. (This was something The Western Journal covered from the beginning — and we’ll keep covering it. You can help us fight critical race theory by subscribing.)
As the first of a series of 11 executive actions issued on his first day in office, Youngkin announced Virginia was “ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.”
No documents/full text of the orders were included in the release and none are posted yet on the Governor’s website. Same with the two Executive Directives his office announced that he’s signed. pic.twitter.com/qsoYoAlXBQ
— Drew Wilder (@DrewWilderTV) January 15, 2022
This brought all the usual tsk-tsks from the mainstream media. From Yacob Reyes at Axios: “Critical race theory is an academic framework created by legal scholars in the 1970s that focuses on systemic racism, especially in the U.S. legal system.
“Despite not being taught in most K-12 schools in the United States, CRT has become a major talking point for Republicans, who have used the term broadly to describe discussion and training about diversity and equity or antiracism.”
Well, not quite, as Youngkin pointed out during his appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
“There’s not a course called critical race theory,” Youngkin said.
“All of the principles of critical race theory, the fundamental building blocks of actually accusing one group of being oppressors and another of being oppressed, of actually burdening children today for sins of the past, for teaching our children to judge one another based on the color of their skin — yes, that does exist in Virginia schools today,” he continued.
“And that’s why I signed the executive order yesterday to make sure that we get it out of our schools.”
”We absolutely have to recognize what the left-liberals do here is try to obfuscate this issue by saying there’s no course called ‘critical race theory.’ Well, of course there’s not in elementary school. But, in fact, there are absolutely the tenets of CRT present in the schools and that’s what our executive order went at yesterday,” he said.
This doesn’t mean history is going to be whitewashed, he said, merely that Virginia schools aren’t “going to teach the children to view everything through a lens of race.”
“Yes, we will teach all history, the good and the bad, because we can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we have come from. But to actually teach our children that one group is advantaged and the other disadvantaged simply because of the color of their skin cuts across everything we know to be true,” Youngkin said.
When asked by Fox News’ John Roberts whether this was “merely a trumped-up phony culture war,” Youngkin pointed to his state’s ground zero of educational wokeness — Loudoun County.
“Anyone who thinks that the concepts that actually underpin critical race theory are not in our schools hasn’t been in our schools and — oh, by the way, I think the school systems in Virginia, and particularly Loudoun County, have been doing everything they can to try to obfuscate the fact that the curriculum has moved in a very, very opaque way that has hidden a lot of this from parents,” Youngkin said.
“And so, we’re, in fact, going to increase transparency, so that parents can actually see what’s being taught in schools, and we’ve instructed our board of education, I’ve instructed our secretary of education, our state superintendent of public schools, to review the curriculum and get racially divisive and other divisive teaching concepts out of the school system,” he added.
While Youngkin doesn’t exactly get into the weeds here, he explains in rough form that, while critical race theory may indeed be a legal framework, its influence stretches far beyond arcane debates about policy and the legal system.
While critical race theory analyzes American systems through the lenses of race and racism — based on the implicit assumption the United States is fundamentally racist, classist and exclusionary — that analysis would be meaningless if there weren’t any practical applications to it beyond a legal framework. Part of that is in education, where the work of dismantling the system, for proponents of critical race theory, must begin.
In Virginia — particularly in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, which saw massive parent demonstrations at school board meetings in the run-up to the election — it’s already crept its way into curricula, often without parental input. The issue was a key factor the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race, where Youngkin defeated the heavily favored Terry McAuliffe.
While McAuliffe’s ties to teachers’ unions and denials that critical race theory was being taught in Virginia schools were problematic, it was one of his statements during the final gubernatorial debate — “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” — that ended up being the former Democratic National Committee head’s political doom.
Getting the tenets of critical race theory out of a state’s schools isn’t as easy as signing an executive order, however. Youngkin and his team have to do the work.
That being said, it’s a good sign they realize what the work entails and where pernicious, divisive theories are hiding.
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