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Op/ed: I Teach About Critical Race Theory in All My Classes

Education Researcher Calls Such Scholarship Critical for Understanding Inequality

By Steven J. Klees

desks in classroom

“Teaching about CRT ... becomes an important part of educating our children, youth and adults for a better world.” Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and Professor of International Education Policy Steven Klees writes in a Baltimore Sun op/ed published online Tuesday.

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Critical race theory (CRT) has become one of the premier political footballs of the era, with commenters on the right often portraying it as the core dogma of the left—and sometimes calling for it to be officially banned from schools. Responses from the left or from academics frequently portray it as a specialized topic in law schools or the political science department that has been inflated into a bogeyman more important on conservative talk radio than in class.

In a new essay in The Baltimore Sun, Steven Klees, a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and professor of international education policy, argues that it’s time to acknowledge that CRT, which attempts to identify and isolate the racism that runs through all facets of society, is a key tool for connecting racism to the other great problems humanity faces, and for educating children, youth and adults alike to improve our world.

CRT essentially says that racism is much more than individual prejudice; it is embedded throughout society’s institutions, policies, structures and cultures. Of course, not everyone agrees with that, but everyone doesn’t need to. It is widely taught because it is a valid perspective that is held by many. Defenders of CRT are making a mistake when they argue that it is mostly an academic subject in law schools. CRT is taught around the U.S. in graduate and undergraduate courses across many fields — including public policy, education, communications, nursing and more. I’m not saying it dominates or that other perspectives aren’t being taught, but CRT has made great inroads because, to many, it makes sense and helps explain a lot about our past and current world.

It’s also a mistake to argue CRT isn’t being taught in our public schools. While few schools may mention CRT, across the U.S. all schools teach something about race and racism. Many teachers understand racism as systemic, as more than individual prejudice, and many share those perspectives in their classrooms. Thanks goodness they do! It is shameful that so many states are enacting laws or policies to ban CRT or control how racism is taught. The idea that education should not cause children “discomfort” is absurd. “History is not therapy,” as Timothy Snyder, Yale University historian, points out in an article titled The War on History is a War on Democracy. Good education often does and should cause discomfort.

Read the rest in The Baltimore Sun.

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