The Education Conversation We Should Be Having
Spoiler alert: it's not "CRT." Black parents & other parents of color should build a movement against White conservative voices who seek to strengthen their influence and power over public schools.
Guest Contributor | Rann Miller
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become the newly manufactured boogieman for conservative politicians. It is nothing more than a continuation of the infamous southern strategy. Manipulation of this theoretical concept has resulted in public policy changes at the state level, tense school board meetings, and also White parents running for their local school board to ensure nothing “CRT” -related enters the American classroom.
That the United States was born from White settler colonialism rooted in exterminating native peoples and enslaving African peoples is not CRT. However, the narrative crafted about America’s origin story is one-sided, a celebration of the White settler colonial project’s transformation into a shining city on a hill.
It’s hard to break away from that. Anything or anyone countering that narrative is considered a threat that must be attacked by conservative politicians and parents alike.
For conservative politicians, most of whom are White, these historical truths are a threat to their power and its further consolidation. For “concerned” parents, most of whom are White, these truths are a threat to their ways of knowing and myths made—that is whiteness—and the privilege that comes with it.
Therefore, talking of teaching children, White children especially, about white supremacy, white privilege, racial capitalism, and white male patriarchy, for example, and how those have shaped the trajectory of the United States, from the past to the present as well as the future, is a threat to the social structure.
CRT, in addition to the 1619 Project, is a casualty to political framing to galvanize White people to vote for whiteness.
This waged war on behalf of whiteness has masterfully hijacked the conversations needed about education in America. For example, rather than discussing education funding or the criminalization of Black students, the election cycle’s focus on education had to do with voter thoughts on CRT and COVID protocols. White children are less than half of the population of public school students, yet the concerns of White parents is all that’s broadcast on network and cable news.
To be clear: We should be concerned about teaching children about racism, white supremacy, and the truth of American history. Likewise, we should be concerned about keeping our children safe from COVID-19 as the nation battles a new variant. But conservative voices shouldn’t be allowed to hijack these conversations, particularly at the expense of equally important matters concerning public schools.
Our schools need curricula that affirms the lives of Black students, as well as other people of color; curricula throughout all content areas that define white supremacy, white privilege, and racial capitalism in practical terms while empowering students to define ways to dismantle it.
Legislation is needed to reconfigure how schools are funded. Policies and procedures are needed to increase the number of teachers of color, specifically Black and Latinx teachers. Training is needed for current teachers to provide them with culturally responsive and relevant ways to help students learn reading, writing, history, the sciences and mathematics. Looking at the recent Nation’s Report Card pulled together by the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the we clearly have a lot of work to do: reading and math scores may have improved compared to the 1970s, but they have shown marked decreases since 2012 ….
Nearly a quarter of American adults are classified as illiterate, and more than half the adult population is not reading above a 6th grade level.
This is the education conversation we should be having.
We ought to also revisit police officers in schools — which contributes to the school-to- prison pipeline harming Black children disproportionately.
Gun law legislation is needed to help prevent school shootings, which would nullify the need for police in schools, thereby protecting Black children.
These issues matter to the parents of the other 54 percent of students, who aren’t white, yet little media attention is given to their concerns. But these parents, largely Black and Latino parents, shouldn’t wait for media attention to develop and/or continue a movement to counter conservative voices. We need a movement demanding equal funding, more teachers of color and identity-affirming curricula that empowers children and strengthens communities.
We need a movement that leans on the momentum of memory of Black and Brown people being elected to school boards, and as the blueprint to both do it again and enter the political fray.
It is time for Black parents, as well as other parents of color, to coalesce and build a movement against conservative voices who seek to strengthen their influence and power over public schools. Parents must meet, organize and plan with their own public relations strategy and their own politicians and lawyers at the ready.
Now is the time to fight back - unless folk are ready to talk about Black founded, funded, and operated schools …