Are Schools Teaching CRT in K-12?

DORISPULASKI

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We have been discussing how history is taught, but it looks like mainly what the political fight will be/is over, is diversity training in K-12. Christopher Rufo has been characterizing diversity training as CRT and Marxism, but the actual book he is talking about is this one:

"Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness," a picture book by a white woman named Anastasia Higginbotham. It is read aloud here:

I have no idea whether this book is used in any schools, and if it is, what ages it is used with.

Because it is a picture book, it appears to be aimed at grades K, 1, and 2. This woman's work has been highly praised in some quarters.

Apparently, an Illinois teacher is suing a school district about the use of this book.

I listened to it he book, and I think it would work better with grades 4-6 as a graphic novel, drawn by someone with more artistic talent than Ms. Higginbotham. The study exercise that implies all your white forebears have signed a contract with the devil is inappropriate for any child who believes in the devil and hell, especially very young children. Too scary and unhappy.

As a Protestant child who read the old version of the Catholic catechism in 2nd grade, all I got out of the hell and damnation stuff was nightmares. If there were moral lessons in there, I did not learn them..too busy being scared.

Is anyone using this book in schools? If so, where and at what level?

And what do you guys think of this book?

And what do you think of it?
 
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BlueRidge

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I have no idea what the content of diversity trainings or bias trainings or racial sensitivity trainings or anything that goes by similiar names is these days, but I was involved in some for adults in the 1990s and I'd say there is quite a diversity in the trainings, haha. Meaning some are not good at all, while others are.

I think there should be room for people to criticize specific trainings without it being subsumed under the us vs them political storm.

But that's probably going to be impossible now with it being deliberately turned into The Outrage to anger and divide people.

ETA: I suspect there is going to be a lot of fodder for the "Anti-Critical Race Theory" juggernaut to exploit in what is being done out there. It's a shame because we need to have honest dialogues about all this not another ratings-for-Fox-and-others hysteria.
 

DORISPULASKI

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I would far rather they use a kid's version of Kendi's book if there is one, or the Pulitzer curriculum for 1619 project, than this one which is more Robin DiAngelo.

I sat through many appalling diversity training courses at IBM up until 2003. Very few helped change people's minds/behavior, or did anything constructive.
 

BlueRidge

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I'm not a fan of anything that seems to be teaching "white guilt." I have no idea what or how to teach young children so I really don't know what should be done, but this emphasis on "Whiteness" doesn't seem like a good direction.

And given how much opinions differ on the implications of racism (as opposed to its existence which isn't honestly debatable) its going to be very fraught to develop effective ways to communicate. How much politics can schools teach without becoming purveyors of one ideological point of view?
 

Dobre

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I've never heard of the book.

As far as teaching diversity goes, I think most elementary teachers who are consciously trying to encourage their students to embrace a diverse world are simply sharing children's books and encouraging discussions about people of many races & backgrounds. I personally think "Diversity" is a great overarching topic. At one point when I taught upper elementary, I taught Diversity as the main theme and we studied the diversity of the state's geography, botany, biology/animals, geology, & people. (For the people unit, kids read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, The Journal of Ben Uchida, & Farewell to Manzanar. The latter is pretty heavy & the kids did well with it). That particular unit was late in the year so coincided well with WWII and the topic of Japanese internment camps. But we started off the year reading loads of Native American myths. Then we did Pioneer Girl, Little House, and Stout-Hearted Seven. I think that may also have been the year I read Zlata's Diary outside the state-history theme. Creative teachers are going to use a wide variety of stuff over the years because teachers get bored and need some diversity in their curriculum also.

With books, I think it's important to keep 3 things in mind.

1. Teachers cannot only read Charlotte's Web 450 times.
2. Practically any book you read has the potential to offend someone. (Do you know how much violence there is in The Odyssey;)? Little House has racist references in folk songs. Fairy tales have witches. There are ghosts in Richard Peck. Charlotte Doyle apparently produces nightmares. I once had a girl in tears after a mom died in a book because her mom had also died. I mean, you've got maybe 24 kids and even more sets of parents. And every one of those sets of parents is a potential reaction to a different thing in a different book. Which brings me to . . .
3. Most teachers are going to choose stuff that isn't going to make the national news radar.

Also, teachers read lots of books. They try to share lots of perspectives. Sharing one perspective doesn't mean a teacher is trying to get kids to think a certain way. Because the teacher is also probably sharing a book with another perspective. So you're generating conversation. You're encouraging the kids to see many perspectives, including those that are different from their own. You're encouraging them to learn to think for themselves.
 
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caseyedwards

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When I was in college a professor teaching a writing class had all the reading and writing assignments be about white privilege and or race in general. Seems like they has moved very aggressively to k-12. Now it could definitely be called a critical race theory class. At the time I guess I thought it was just a unifying theme she did for herself.
 

jenny12

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I think there will always be some teachers that try to push the boundaries in terms of content (I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing). I don’t know if that book does so but I could see the title as potential off-putting to some. I think there are always ways to talk about the idea of race and racism in school regardless of age but it has to be in a way that is tailored to the specific age group. I am just going by assumptions here but that book does sound perhaps a bit much for young kids and maybe there would be a way to deliver the same message in a softer way.

I didn’t learn about the idea of “Whiteness” as a social construction and a source of privilege directly until college, though I think there were hints of it during probably middle and high school. I think they probably didn’t use the term white privilege but we did talk about the idea of having a Eurocentric perspective and what it means to view things from that lens. However, I don’t think I really learned about the type of white privilege that really is specific to the American identity until college.
 
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clairecloutier

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We have been discussing how history is taught, but it looks like mainly what the political fight will be/is over, is diversity training in K-12. Christopher Rufo has been characterizing diversity training as CRT and Marxism, but the actual book he is talking about is this one:

"Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness," a picture book by a white woman named Anastasia Higginbotham. It is read aloud here:

I have no idea whether this book is used in any schools, and if it is, what ages it is used with.

Because it is a picture book, it appears to be aimed at grades K, 1, and 2. This woman's work has been highly praised in some quarters.

Apparently, an Illinois teacher is suing a school district about the use of this book.

I listened to it he book, and I think it would work better with grades 4-6 as a graphic novel, drawn by someone with more artistic talent than Ms. Higginbotham. The study exercise that implies all your white forebears have signed a contract with the devil is inappropriate for any child who believes in the devil and hell, especially very young children. Too scary and unhappy.


I listened to the book (but not the activities at the end).

As a parent, I wouldn’t have an issue if my kids read/heard this book in school. However, I don’t know as I would personally select it as a teacher, particularly within younger grades. Like you, Doris, I think the kids would understand it better in older grades. The themes, to me, seem beyond the ability of kids at a younger age to emotionally grasp. And one of the problems I would have with this book for younger kids is the depictions of violence at the beginning.

The book starts off with an interesting idea, which is that: “when parents don’t tell kids about something, it’s often because they’re afraid of it themselves.” This is sort of true on one level. My own discomfort with things like school shootings or racist police brutality does, or did, lead me to not want to discuss them with my children, especially when they were young. But it’s also true that I don’t think children are necessarily ready to take in these things when they are very young. There is a risk of traumatizing kids, or at least destabilizing their view of the world or making them feel threatened/insecure, by exposing them to too much too soon. (I do realize that just the concept of being able to shield kids from awareness of some of these things at a quite young age is also a privilege thing. 🙁)

I think the general idea or goal of trying to raise awareness about race issues among kids at younger ages is good, and I definitely support that. It’s just a question of how exactly to do that. I guess my reaction to this particular book is that it’s a good attempt with some very good ideas imparted, just maybe a little too sophisticated/mature for the target age group.
 

Dobre

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How many parents actually want that for their children? Do black parents as a group want it? What about mixed-race couples? The only way to determine this is to give parents choice in the form of a voucher system.
If parents want to control curriculum, the only way to do so is via home school.

Otherwise, education is first & foremost about educating the children and--generally speaking--we should want our kids to learn more than we as individuals know, much less what we as individuals want to know. Kids are going to learn some awful stuff. They are going to learn about genocide and The Donner Party and lynchings and child soldiers in Cambodia and children sold into the sex trade and people burned as witches and women burned in the Middle East and people being sold naked on the auction block. The list goes on and on and on. Kids are going to learn about evolution and survival of the fittest because those are building blocks of biology & without them being taught, we would have no future doctors or veterinarians. Kids are going to learn about sexual reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases because we need kids not to get pregnant too early in life & lose their own opportunities for further education or fall victim to date rape drugs or what have you. And kids will learn all kinds of anatomy that was first learned via scientists who illegally dug up dead bodies from graveyards.

Choosing your child's school is a good way to gain further education. If you want your child to learn a particular language or the tenets of a particular religion or a performing art or trade skills or technology and the list goes on forever.

But kids, in any school setting, will always learn more than parents want or have even considered.

There will always be parents who feel the timing for some of these lessons should be different than what they are. There will always be parents who would prefer their children never learn some of these awful things. There will also be kids who get to college and cannot handle life because they weren't prepared in advance. There will also be adults who never get a full education and are at a disadvantage to others in life.

Parents can play a huge role in their children's education. They help educate their kids by providing more perspectives & viewpoints all along the way. They can be supportive when kids learn something uncomfortable. They can express concerns and share their childrens' emotional reactions with people doing the teaching. They can talk over tough subjects & help kids deal with them. They can provide books which introduce some of these tough subjects in ways that are age appropriate. They can take kids on trips & teach them about the world.

But unless parents are the ones teaching their kids, what the most parents want should not define schools or curriculum.
 
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canbelto

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CRT is actually just being a good history teacher. You cannot teach about the Constitution, Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, without examining the role race had in play. If you teach about Jim Crow laws, can you ignore the literacy tests and poll taxes that were designed to disenfranchise black voters?
 

BlueRidge

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CRT is actually just being a good history teacher. You cannot teach about the Constitution, Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, without examining the role race had in play. If you teach about Jim Crow laws, can you ignore the literacy tests and poll taxes that were designed to disenfranchise black voters?
I don't think this is actually true. My understanding is that Critical Race Theory is a particular body of thought developed primarily for analyzing the law. It deals with racism and how it is systemic but that doesn't mean that every mention of the systemic nature of racism is CRT.

I think that it has been the goal of the rightwing to make people refer to all discussion of racism as CRT so that as they demonize CRT all discussion of racism becomes demonized among those who buy into their campaign, and more importantly they hope then to make all discussion of racism politically controversial and they hope, toxic.
 

DORISPULASKI

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Rufo fell in love with using CRT to label all equity/diversity training because all three words test very negative with the general public, sort of like this:

Critical-It criticizes all us white people

Race- none of the racists want to be called racists

Theory- a fake story made up by those hyper liberal elites; probably Marxists

It is not like any commentators are actually.going to read about CRT, so saying CRT is not taught as a defense is not working.

It is like saying I am not for defunding the police. Every time you say the words, you shoot yourself in the foot.
 

BlueRidge

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But its a catch-22, if you deny its being taught you are talking about it, and if you accept that what you are teaching is CRT and defend it you're right where they want you.

I think the best thing is to just bypass any use of the term Critical Race Theory or CRT and talk about what is being taught and why it is needed.
 

DORISPULASKI

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Yes, I think that is a good approach. But not using the above book is also worth considering, I think.

Here is another furious RWNmom confronting what appears to be this book:

An important question is what curriculum causes the desired result. Getting angry parents to haul the kids out of school is probably not what the school board intended
 

canbelto

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CRT in college might be more theoretical. But in grade school, it's actually just doing things a history teacher should already be doing.
 

BlueRidge

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But not using the above book is also worth considering, I think.

I didn't like what I saw of it to be sure.

But the problem is that the ACRT people (anti-Critical Race Theory) are going to be combing through every school district they have activists in and making a national stink about any teaching they think they can exploit so these things are going to happen.

I think that for those who want to see kids at each level exposed to appropriate teachings about racism and US history and the present need to be proactive about what they are doing rather than reacting to people who are getting people into the media to scream buzzwords like "Antifa."
 

BlueRidge

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Higginbotham is interviewed in the article above.
I read some of it. I feel like she centers "whiteness" in her approach, that in a weird way she is teaching that whites have all the power because of "whiteness." Somehow I just don't see this approach as the way I would go.
 

DORISPULASKI

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Yes, she says she wrote the book for white children- which is exactly why it is inappropriate for a class of 5 year olds which includes black, Asian, and Pequot and Mohegan kids as well as white kids. Btw evangelical kids of all groups may believe in the devil.


Btw, in CT schools are outsourcing their racial equity training to groups like:

Their approach has some good features, but it is driving some folks in East Lyme (a pricey shoreline community) batso:
 
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DORISPULASKI

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The reviews of Not My Idea, particularly the 2 star reviews are interesting.

And Tucker Carlson is featuring the book. This long article explaining Tucker contains a discussion with the woman who pulled her kids out of public school over the Higginbotham book.

"Something Happened in Our Town (A Child's Story About Racial Injustice)" by Marianne Celano

This book seems like a better choice. Reviewers consistently mention their kids asking questions and the parents being able to answer them, partially due to a guide for the parents included in the book. Additionally, a black family and a white family were both characters in the story. Not My Idea had an all white set of characters that made it, I think, less useful for non white kids.
 
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Susan1

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I'm not really paying attention to all this, but there is a post on my city's chat page arguing about it. This city is 91% white (as of 2019). A couple people did organize small BLM marches last year, with a lot of complaints before (like "I'm not racist, but why should you have a march?"), but no problems during. Some are calling it still a "sundown city" (certain people get out by sundown). A history teacher posted that they do not teach CRT. Most people are arguing just to be arguing or to be sarcastic. I just glanced at some.
 

ErikWilliam

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Rufo fell in love with using CRT to label all equity/diversity training because all three words test very negative with the general public, sort of like this:

Critical-It criticizes all us white people

Race- none of the racists want to be called racists

Theory- a fake story made up by those hyper liberal elites; probably Marxists

It is not like any commentators are actually.going to read about CRT, so saying CRT is not taught as a defense is not working.

It is like saying I am not for defunding the police. Every time you say the words, you shoot yourself in the foot.
I read an interesting article/oped about why people are jumping on the ACRT bandwagon, and the first thing that was mentioned was the word "critical", because some would take it as meaning "negative". Whereas the word critical is meant to mean:


1Expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments.
‘he was critical of many U.S. welfare programs’

2Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.
‘she never won the critical acclaim she sought’
  1. 2.1(of a published literary or musical text) incorporating a detailed and scholarly analysis and commentary.

    ‘a critical edition of a Bach sonata’
    More example sentences
    2.2Involving the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.


    I'm not sure that actual CRT is appropriate for K-12. CRT is a critical analysis of how race/ism has shaped political and socioeconomic realities in America. It's not about 'slavery is bad and slaveowners were worse'. It's trying to understand the black American experience through it's laws and programs since it was formed. For instance, we learned about the GI Bill that those who fought in WW2 would have their college paid for. Except if you were black (I missed that part). US veterans that came home from the war were given generous home loans. Except for black people (again I wasn't taught that). It's things like this that I find interesting, which goes far beyond the 3/5ths clause or Jim Crow. It would make a very interesting college course of study. Before then, probably not. But yes, it seems that those who are ACRT are afraid of being educated in general or their children learning about America's racist past.



 

MacMadame

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Most people are arguing just to be arguing or to be sarcastic.
Yeah, this seems to be a big deal in Red areas of the country where they make up a definition of CRT and then argue to the converted about how it's bad while everyone else just ignores them. :lol:

There was an article in the local paper about how it's just not a big deal here in CA even among conservatives because CA as a state has accepted diversity and inclusion as a goal. Locally we do get some people calling into the school board meetings saying things like "don't teach CRT" and the Board (which is 4 to 1 conservative) says "we're not" and that is the end of it. The conservatives have bigger fish to fry from what I can tell.
 

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