The Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District board voted to approve a resolution that bars the teaching of critical race theory in district classes. It is unclear whether it has been ever been taught in the district. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)


Opinion: The censorship of critical race theory in American education

The debate of critical race theory staying in American education will depend on collective efforts of educators and policymakers.
<a href="" target="_self">Chloe Chang</a>

Chloe Chang

August 16, 2023

The United States’ education system has long set the country apart from other nations. International students travel to study at American universities and the public school system, from elementary to secondary school, is consistently ranked highly in global rankings. However, the regulation of curriculum within that public system remains a matter of deep contention. As controversy unfolds, the importance of an informed and educated society is increasingly evident.

In September 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order that was widely interpreted as an attempt to ban critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in classrooms. Since then, six states have taken steps to implement their own bans, while legislation is pending in 16 additional states. Statewide school boards in three states have also prohibited the teaching of CRT.

These censorship policies have sparked both anti-CRT and pro-CRT demonstrations in numerous states, reflecting the deep divide in opinions on the matter. Anti-CRT demonstrations have been held in 22 states, while pro-CRT demonstrations have been held in 24 states and in Washington, DC. 

Critical race theory is a concept that aims to explain how discrimination and inequity are woven into laws, policies, and systems. The concept argues that racism goes beyond individual prejudice and is an ingrained component of American society and history. There have been numerous policies surrounding curriculum regulation of CRT in the United States. 

Critics of CRT argue that the movement itself is discriminatory, as it assumes that all white individuals are inherently racist, while viewing all people of color as perpetual victims. Opponents of CRT contend that public funds should not be used to promote what they perceive as hate and racism. Representative Ron Nate, a Republican from Idaho, who co-sponsored a bill to ban CRT in the state, voiced his concerns to a local news station, stating, “CRT tries to make kids feel bad because of the color of their skin, or their sex, or any other category—one group is seen as an aggrieved minority and another group is the oppressive majority.”

On the other side of the debate, supporters of critical race theory argue that its inclusion in classrooms promotes greater equity among racial groups in America, rather than mere equality. They believe that efforts to eliminate discussions about racism and its historical impact contribute to the erasure of marginalized voices.

Proponents of CRT also assert that anti-CRT policies deprive students and teachers of the necessary skills, knowledge, and confidence to engage in critical conversations about race and societal issues within the classroom. Rashawn Ray, a senior fellow in governance studies at the liberal-leaning think tank Brookings Institution, explains, “Scholars and activists who discuss CRT are not arguing that white people living now are to blame for what people did in the past. They are saying that white people living now have a moral responsibility to do something about how racism still impacts all of our lives today.” 

As the debate surrounding critical race theory censorship policies rages on, the future remains uncertain. However, one thing is clear — the outcome of this contentious issue will have far-reaching implications for the education system and the country as a whole. Ultimately, the resolution of this debate will depend on the collective efforts of educators, policymakers, and communities to develop approaches that address the complex realities of racism while fostering an inclusive learning environment.

Opinion: An Assault on Education

Opinion: An Assault on Education

Earlier last month, the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions in cases against Harvard and the University of North California. Just one day later, they ruled that the Biden Administration overstepped with their plan to wipe out $400 billion in student...