Earlier this month, State Rep. Chris Pringle announced he had pre-filed a bill in the Alabama Legislature that would ban the teaching of so-called critical race theory in Alabama’s public schools.
What is critical race theory?
A working definition for the media has been a theory that suggests essential institutions in this country are “inherently” racist and, therefore, oppressive of people of color.
It is an academic theory that dates back to the 1970s, but has found new life in this Black Lives Matter chapter of the American story.
Nonetheless, there is a fear that the suggestion all institutions in the U.S. are racist will become a taxpayer-supported theme in public school learning.
Presenting that notion as fact to young, impressionable minds is nothing to take lightly. While it is a theory, it is unproven and easily challenged on many levels.
The problem with teaching critical race theory at the grade school level is it will be offered without the critical thinking necessary to test it.
But should it be banned?
Indeed, there are many more important things for public education policymakers to be concerned about before tackling how to offer a lecture on critical race theory.
It is not about raising Alabama’s standing in subjective rankings, which penalize school systems for rejecting common core standards or global warming reeducation.
It is about teaching the basics — reading, writing, science, math, etc. — and our public schools struggle with just accomplishing that.
How about nailing that down before exposing young minds to some esoteric theory that promotes left-of-center political causes?
Whatever you think about where critical race theory should measure up on the priority list for K-12 education, there is something that ought to make us all feel a little uneasy about banning anything.
“Well, they ban us,” you might say. “Their activist took down long-standing, iconic Confederate monuments like the Adm. Raphael Semmes statue. If those are the new rules, let them apply to all.”
If we take that to its logical extreme, then there will be nothing left.
No question, the institutional left in America has abandoned the idealistic absolutism of civil libertarians.
The American Civil Liberties Union has traded its mantra of countering bad speech with more speech for a subjective, militaristic and suspect approach to so-called hate speech.
For several years, the right has been on the wrong side of the cultural issues. Look around. Everything in pop culture worships at the altar of liberal politics. You’re not getting any work in Hollywood unless you can sufficiently demonstrate you meet the “woke” criteria.
Inevitably, elements of human nature will kick in. The desire to reject being told how to think, what to do and what is acceptable will become overwhelming.
Where do Republicans and/or conservatives want to be when this moment comes?
It is essential to be in the right place — open-minded to allowing bad ideas to enter into the so-called marketplace of ideas so they can be rejected.
A blanket theory that assumes the worst in everything on race is intellectually lazy and easy to debunk.
Why not disprove it instead of imposing an outright ban?
If you ban critical race theory and other crackpot, run-of-the-mill boilerplate assumptions in this political environment, you do more to boost them than hinder them.
For education policymakers in the Legislature and state school boards: Allow an option for critical race theory to be taught, but with so many caveats it makes indoctrination of schoolchildren less of a possibility.
The Legislature is one of the right places for this discussion. Detractors say, “Those guys on Goat Hill can’t even define critical race theory. Why should we allow them to have a say if it is taught in schools? Let the education professional decide!”
We elect the legislative branch to be responsible stewards of the money that goes into the Education Trust Fund. Those guys vote to fund all sorts of sciences and arts on which they are not experts.
Their job is not to be experts on all of the subject matter the state teaches, be it critical race theory or quantum mechanics; it is to determine if the record $7.7 billion education budget is being used in the best way to benefit Alabama constituents.
Suppose you banned any mention of critical race theory from discussion in Alabama’s public schools. In that case, it also could never see a true definition offered, including “a flimsy academic theory peddled in 2021 as a way to make the race card an easier tool for Democratic politicians.”
To understand American politics in 2021, you can’t ignore the reemergence of these outdated philosophies trying to make their way back into the mainstream.
If we go the other direction and ban things we don’t agree with or don’t like, it becomes like moving pieces on a checkers board. The winner may be the last one standing with their favorite political theory, but did he really win?
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