Thomas Catenacci on April 21, 2022
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, sparred Wednesday with two University of North Georgia professors over whether Critical Race Theory (CRT) should be taught in schools.
Schilling and the two social foundations of education professors, Brandon Haas and T. Jameson Brewer, began by discussing the definition of CRT before they delved into how it is being applied to K-12 education nationwide during the debate hosted by the Daily Caller News Foundation at Emory University. While Schilling criticized how CRT concepts have been taught in secondary education, the two Georgia professors backed a more sympathetic view.
“I think that Critical Race Theory should not be taught,” Schilling said in his opening remarks. “I think that race theory discussions should be regulated in schools for three primary reasons.”
CRT is a legal theory that has been taught primarily in law schools over the last several decades. But K-12 educators have increasingly taken concepts from the legal theory and applied it to their classroom curricula.
For example, students are regularly taught that American institutions are inherently racist and perpetuate inequity.
Schilling argued that regulation is necessary when there is “abuse or overreach,” that the primary purpose of education is to create a generation of citizens who understand the purpose of their country, and that taxpayers and parents have the absolute right to ban something that they disagree with. Children belong to their parents, not the state or the government, Schilling said.
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But Haas and Brewer pushed back, arguing CRT is a legal theory and that parts of the theory have had an appropriate impact on classrooms around the country. Brewer said it was unfortunate how CRT has become a “political football” and has mostly been opposed by those seeking greater school privatization.
“I think that the purpose of education is to create students who are fundamentally good,” Haas said. “If we are going to do that, one of the things that’s necessary is that they have a full understanding of their society, the world around them and the history and practices that are ongoing in the United States.”
Haas added that education is about “dissecting and having complex conversations” about U.S. history. Students should be expected to grapple with this “checkered” history, he said.
“I think we agree that sort of CRT proper is not being discussed,” Brewer argued. “But to the question of framing, I think it’s important that teachers not be censured from using particular tools, theories, lenses and ways of addressing something or interpreting something. Because again, I have faith in teachers and I have faith in students who can understand critical thinking to the point of knowing the purpose of one tool.”
“I reject the premise that critical race theory is about asking questions,” Schilling responded. “One of my main problems with it is that you’re teaching a theology that there are oppressed classes and there are oppressor classes in America and that at the root of the American founding was racism, and that the purpose of the founding of America was to advance racism.”
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