From Texas to Florida to Virginia, parents are fighting back against pedagogical frameworks that sow division
NEW YORK, NY — Critical race theory (CRT) has been in the news a lot lately, with state legislatures across the country working to restrict or expand its role in K-12 curricula. But what is CRT? While some see it as the latest bogeyman for Conservative shock jocks, others, including some vocal grassroots parental groups, contend it’s a toxic pedagogical framework that filters academic material through a simplistic and divisive lens of oppressor-versus-oppressed. The debate embroiling the country suggests both the elusive and contentious nature of the concept.
In a new initiative, A Toolkit for Concerned Parents, the Manhattan Institute aims to offer sober, objective guidance for parents navigating the “woke schooling” that’s become increasingly common in K-12 classrooms. The toolkit points out that what’s become known as CRT in today’s media is actually a catch-all (and sometimes inaccurate) term for a series of concepts, practices, and theories that filter academic material through emphases on racial, class, and gender disparities. Instead, the toolkit refers to those phenomena often categorized as CRT and woke schooling under the umbrella term of “critical pedagogy.” As the toolkit explains, critical pedagogy drives racial essentialism by compelling students to identify and sort themselves along racial lines, and then to acknowledge their complicity in or subjugation to broader discriminatory systems based on those classifications.
Parents who question critical pedagogy are often accused of wanting to whitewash history and shield children from painful historical realities, like the Tulsa Massacre or the Trail of Tears. The Manhattan Institute’s toolkit instead operates in a spirit of intellectual integrity; it supports parents in their mission to provide their children with a rigorous and objective education—one that does not shy away from the ugliest aspects of American history—while rejecting lenses that perpetuate ethnic stereotypes and racial division. Its digestible two-part structure offers a concise summary of the issues at play. It includes a glossary of frequently used terms as well as practical guidance for parents who wish to push back on critical pedagogy.