Jun. 10, 2021 9:45 am

Student voice needs to be at forefront of CRT decision-making

Legislators in several states, including Pennsylvania, want to ban teaching that acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and other forms of institutional racism continues to permeate the social fabric of the nation.

Gen Zers are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, according to the Pew Research Center, with nearly half of the group’s members representing communities of color.

(Photo by Lia Castro from Pexels)

The acronym CRT may be something you have heard in the news recently.

It stands for Critical Race Theory (CRT).  In this Education Week article, CRT is defined as:

“[R]acism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

However, as the article also states, there is still confusion on what CRT really means — for example — how is it related to anti-racism?

CRT has been given attention recently because legislators in several states, including Pennsylvania, want to ban teaching it in schools.

My students constantly express the need to learn real history and also see their representation in history.

As I reflect on this, I keep on coming back to the sentiment that our students deserve the truth. My students constantly express the need to learn “real history” and also see their representation in history.

In everything I have read in the news about the CRT debate, I have not seen anything highlighting the perspective of our students. Student voice is the missing piece in this debate, and needs to be at the forefront of decision-making.

After working several years in public policy, I decided to come back into the classroom in order to empower my students and their families as they should drive policy and decisions.

Have the legislators making these decisions to ban CRT taught in public schools? Have they met families of students? Do they have children? And if they do have children, do they fear for their child because of the color of their skin? I do not know if these are the types of questions being asked when legislation is written, but I highly doubt it.

How do you feel when you read or hear these terms: white privilege, oppressive systems, dismantling policy, anti-racism, Black Lives Matter?

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My hypothesis is that many of the legislators who are proposing to ban CRT feel uncomfortable. I’m basing this hypothesis on a letter that 20 state attorneys wrote to Biden’s Education Department in May. In the letter, the attorneys communicated the following:

“[CRT] supports the idea that America is a fundamentally racist country and that our institutions are inherently systemically racist…Promoting this warped view of American history does not support the teaching of American history as required by [federal] statute, but instead props up an idea based not in fact, but on the idea that the United States is a nation founded on white supremacy, patriarchy, and oppression and that these forces are still at the root of our society,”

But, part of the process in achieving equity is to be aware of what is causing inequity (i.e. systems built on oppression) and that can be an uncomfortable part of the process for many.  The purpose of spreading this awareness is not to send the message that every American is racist, but instead bringing to light what needs to change in order to be more equitable and anti-racist.

Our country’s children are the future leaders and with CRT knowledge and awareness, they can lead us to a world with the community agreements of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Do you agree?

If so, please sign this pledge to “teach the truth” and make your pledge public on June 12, 2021 (Day of Action). The Philadelphia Day of Action event will be held at the President’s House (6th and Market) at 12:30 p.m.


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