The term “Critical Race Theory” is a hot topic in the education world due to new state legislators who deem such rhetorical and historical perspectives as “divisive” in the structure of race relations in America. But if students do not have a thorough understanding of how history has strategically disadvantaged certain populations, how can future innovators create equitable solutions? First, let’s define critical race theory, discuss why schools are banning it, and situate the conversation in a larger context of equity in education.
What’s the big deal?
Critical Race Theory became popular in the 1980s by lawyer Kimberle Crenshaw and scholar Derrick Bell. This philosophical approach to race relations in America proposes that racism is “...rooted in a system of oppression based on socially constructed racial hierarchy where white people reap material benefits over people of color resulting from misuse of power,” notes Dr. Carter Andrews of Michigan State University. Many politicians worry that this theoretical approach to explain the inequalities in society does nothing more than broaden the gap between races. However, significant research in this theory proposes that racism is not simply a result of the individual but rather a subtle network of institutional and socialized contexts which preserve hierarchies of inequality. States which have banned teaching CRT with recent legislation include Utah, Texas, Iowa, Tennessee, Idaho, and Oklahoma.
How does this impact education quality?
Funding disparities exist within districts due to low tax dollars in poor areas which influence student’s ability to access quality, up-to-date materials, and certified teachers. Urban planning which historically segregated affluent White neighborhoods from Black neighborhoods still contributes to inter-district education disparities, even with higher federal and state resources allocated to impoverished schools and laws which prohibit explicit segregation. For more information about zoning and the impact on education, here is a helpful video.
Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, and after-school tutoring programs which are available to students in well-funded public schools are not always available in poor districts. Ignoring the historical implications, which continue to affect the quality of education for students in impoverished schools, means that the problem will continue without accountability.
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How can we fix it?
Educating the community on the benefits of Critical Race Theory and recognizing how racism is inherent in many aspects of life is the first step. Critical Race Theory is directly tied to equity as equity seeks to produce equal opportunity for everyone without disregarding the racism inherent in many aspects of social and economic existence. In order to create solutions that reduce the education gap, individuals should know how the education gap came about and why it still exists. Education solutions that utilize innovative technology at a low cost could be the solution to produce equitable communities of learning. Proximity Learning has been a proponent of equity in education for over ten years, ensuring that all students in rural and urban areas have access to high-quality, live instruction.