How Anti-Racism Is Derailing Efforts to Improve Education

There has been much ink spilled recently on “anti-racist” education. As the debate has raged, many have asked whether this latest burst of wokeness needs to be taken seriously, or whether the perpetual outrage machine is distorting a more innocuous reality. While there’s certainly performative posturing when it comes to anti-racist education, we regret to say—after having observed all this fairly closely for several years—that the concerns are legitimate and growing more so by the day.

What’s going on? The phrase “anti-racist” education seems anodyne, even banal. It sounds like “anti-crime” policing or “anti-morbidity” medicine. Schools are charged with instructing students in our shared values, and a core American value in the 21st century is that we should oppose racism. How could anyone object?

Indeed, popular coverage of the disputes over anti-racist education and critical race theory suggests that the only objectors are hyper-partisan reactionaries appealing to red America’s racist impulses. Take a recent, lengthy Washington Post explainer, which frames the debate as between school leaders simply working to “inject an anti-racist mindset into campus life” and “conservative backlash.”  

“Conservatives have seized on the idea that schools are promoting critical race theory,” wrote the Post’s Laura Meckler and Hannah Natason, which they clinically describe as “a decades-old academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism.” The pair dismiss complaints and concerns as the product of naïfs and partisans reacting to “snatches of information, such as a short video clip of a lesson.”

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