Ideologies, Critical Thinking, and Anti-anti CRT
What is the point of civics education? This is the question at the heart of debates on whether or not Critical Race Theory should be banned from public schools.
For those in favor of bans, the point is to teach the current generation how to be good citizens. This includes instilling the virtues of patriotism in America’s youth because it is not good for people to believe that the system they are about to participate is racist and perpetuates white supremacy. Members of the community do not need to agree on everything, but if it they are to live with each other and accept the fact that they will occasionally lose elections, they need to believe its constitutional institutions and rules are good and just and your opponents do not seek to destroy them.
Those opposed to bans say that by banning discussions of certain ideas, you are stunting critical thinking. Proper education is not teaching people what to think, but how to think and in a pluralistic society with many different opinions out there to consider, a good educator should present them all in a fair and balanced way and encourage students to make up their own minds.
One would hope proponents of the second option do not wish for teachers to get up in front of their students and portray fascism as a legitimate option to help get Amtrak to get its trains to run on time.
Still, when it comes to ideas within the Overton Window, critical thinking and instilling the virtues of patriotism are not mutually exclusive, especially for high school students. High schoolers are soon-to-be voters and educating them on the issues and teaching them how not to be aimless partisan drones is a worthy endeavor.
When it comes to Critical Race Theory, however, it should be noted that CRT is not an ideology or “another perspective.” It should not have to be said but, because this is politics and politics makes us stupid, it will be noted that talking about racism and its legacy is not the same thing as teaching CRT. No matter how many times proponents claim otherwise, CRT will never mean “accurate history” or “frank discussions about race.”
Despite having “theory” in the title, CRT is not so much a theory, but a process where the Critic (capital-C) tries to explain how laws have created and perpetuated racial inequality or inequities. In other words, the Critic starts with a predetermined conclusion. It is, therefore, the exact opposite of the critical (small-C) thinking that critics of CRT bans claim they support.
Critical thinking entails challenging your own assumptions, following evidence, and considering multiple perspectives. It is a good thing that this should be part of civics education, but Critical Race Theory destroys critical thinking as it does none of these things.
It starts with the premise that any statistical inequity is the fault of some law and therefore the law is racist and if the law is racist then the system is racist. Personal behavior or even just unintended consequences of the law are ideas that CRT cannot, by definition, even consider.
This pseudo-scientific process is not, therefore, a belief system akin to conservatism, progressivism, libertarianism, or any other -ism. Ideologies ask questions like “why does government exist?”, “what are its legitimate functions?”, “what are rights and where do they come from?”, “what is human nature?”, and “is morality objective or subjective?”
All of these questions inform our policy preferences on everything from abortion to taxes to the Iran nuclear deal. But, CRT does not ask any of them.
If still unconvinced, do a simple thought experiment. Replace the ‘R’ in CRT with anything else and see how absurd the “theory” becomes. If such a thing as Critical Democrat Theory existed where the Critic declared the “diploma divide” shows that the laws of the United States confer systemic advantages on to Democrats to keep Republicans oppressed, they would laughed out of the room and any attempt to force it on K-12 students would be denounced as indoctrination. Why should we treat CRT any differently?