“What is going on in education right now is not normal. It’s ‘anti-education’.”
On March 3, 2021, the Legal Insurrection Foundation held a Virtual Event: How Critical Race Training is Harming K-12, co-sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The event was a follow-up to our December 2020 event on how CRT was harming higher education.
The full speaker bios are at our prior post (the full link above):
THOMAS K. LINDSAY, PH.D.
Distinguished Senior Fellow of Higher Education and Constitutional Studies
Texas Public Policy Foundation
WENYUAN WU, PH.D.
Californians for Equal Rights Foundation
DR. RICHARD A. JOHNSON III
Director, Booker T. Washington Initiative
Texas Public Policy Foundation
President and Founder
Embedded immediately below is a highlight reel excerpting the program, as well as a transcript of the highlight reel.
Please note that the highlight reel compacts clips of statements by the respective speakers and are not single uninterrupted presentations, it should be obvious where the break in the original comes (but if there’s any doubt, you can watch the full video at the bottom of the post).
Also, the transcript is mostly auto-generated, so there may be transcription errors.
HIGHLIGHT REEL TRANSCRIPT
(Auto-generated, may contain transcription errors. Time-stamps are approximate.)
Kemberlee Kaye, Director of Operations and Editorial Development, Legal Insurrection Foundation
(00:04): We’re really excited about this evening’s program, which is entitled, “How Critical Race Training is Harming K-12.” (…) Since rolling out CriticalRace.org, a website that is a project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation, we heard from so many people wanting to discuss K-12, which is equally as important if not more so, because [Critical Race Theory] is all fairly fresh for the K-12 sphere. And it’s a space that’s just now beginning to coalesce. (…) We’re really excited to be able to get everyone together this evening and hopefully provide you a little bit of hope because one of my messages, and something I’m very passionate about, is reminding you that you are not alone. There are people who are working very hard to push back against these things that are taking what should be knowledge-based education and turning it into something completely different. (…)
Professor William A. Jacobson, Cornell Law School, President, Legal Insurrection Foundation
(00:59): We decided to roll out the Critical Race Training in Higher Education website, which we rolled out at the beginning of February, really over the summer, when I saw a lot of things happening in higher education that were extremely troubling. (…) One of the things that we have noticed is the immediate outpouring of reaction, through our box on our Critical Race Training website where people can email us, was, “What you’ve done for higher ed. is really great, but what are you going to do? When are you going to get to K-12?” And that was one of the big takeaways that this is not just a higher ed. problem, but the issues are the same. The issue is that Critical Race Training reduces everything to what historically has been the single most divisive aspect of American society, which is race, and makes everything about race, and that the U.S. is systemically racist. There’s nothing anybody can do about it. And, therefore, everything we do in education focuses on race, which is extremely, extremely destructive. It focuses on equality of outcome, what they euphemistically call “equity”, and justifies discrimination in order to achieve equity because we all know in our regular lives, not everybody performs the same. (…)
(02:34): This focus on equity has really become incredibly destructive. And so you have these absurdities, but you have people who believe in them very fervently and who agitate for them. (…) While it is true that this ideology is being pushed by the Left, it would be a mistake for people opposing it to view this as a “Left versus Right” issue. I don’t care whether you’re Left or Right. I find it very hard to believe that a majority of parents or even a significant percentage of parents want their children taught to not show your work in math, to not show your proof, to not be able to do that. I find it hard to believe, and I don’t believe that any race or ethnicity, as a group of parents, believes that their children should be taught math without being taught how to show your proof.
(03:32): That is not natural to parenting. It’s not natural to education. And that’s another takeaway I’d like you to have, which is, what is being pushed, the ideology that is being pushed, is not natural to our environment. And they create a framework where, if you do not agree with them, the way they have framed the issues, you are now racist. And we know that that’s not true because these education issues are important to parents regardless of race or ethnicity. And, you have to keep in mind that you are in the majority.
(04:09): But the reality is that you are in the majority, you can organize. (…) There is no one person or group or website who can do it all. But collectively, I want the people watching this to understand that this battle has not been lost, not by a long shot. Whenever these things are brought to light, there is a public outrage. So, keep in mind, you’re not alone. Shine a light on it and organize locally, but you can make a difference. And that’s what we really want people to come away with tonight that this is not normal. What is going on in education right now is not normal. It’s “anti-education”. What I want to do is simply amplify Kemberlee’s message in her opening that you are not alone. I can guarantee you. (…)
Dr. Thomas K. Lindsay, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Higher Education and Constitutional studies, Texas Public Policy Foundation
(05:00): Critical Race Training comes from Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory is the product, first, of “Critical Theory” itself; Critical Theory is the child of Karl Marx. From Critical Theory came first “Critical Legal Theory”, which simply says that all law can be understood as a consequence of the rich trying to oppress the poor. In other words, it takes a Marxist framework and and applies it to the law. From critical legal theory, which started being taught in American law schools back in the late ’70’s, early ’80’s, came “Critical Race Theory”. (…) To class struggle, Critical Race Theory adds racial struggle. Specifically, Critical Race Theory argues that all aspects of our life are interwoven with, and products of, racial prejudice, with an overriding emphasis on “white supremacy”. So, under this theory, even those whites who adhere to the Declaration’s foundational principle, that all human beings are created equal, even they are guilty, whether they know it or not, of racism by virtue of their skin color.
(06:26): Now Critical Race Theory also adds a degree of moral and cultural relativism in which it argues that language and logic are merely instruments of power dynamics. (…) Critical Theory, Critical Legal Theory, and Critical Race Theory share the idea that “oppressed peoples” impede the “revolution” when they believe in, and adhere to, and identify with the cultural beliefs of their oppressors. And therefore, the remedy is “re-education sessions”, as well as the “taking down” of all institutional and societal and moral norms through relentless criticism, including self-criticism; and then, finally, with the replacement of all current systems and all institutional systems with descriptions of those systems that describe the world as consisting fundamentally of two classes: oppressors and oppressed. This is the world according to Critical Legal Theory and according to Critical Race Theory, and really all stemming from Marx, that we are forever separated by accidents of birth, race, class, and sex.
(07:51): Now, from this teaching of ongoing and perpetual and fundamental “separateness” among groups can only come a decrease in understanding between and among races. And, with this decrease in understanding, can only come hostility between and among races. And this increased hostility, in turn, threatens to bring on our country a second civil war. Now, one example in the K-12 sphere, of the application of Critical Race Theory and Critical Legal Theory, and Critical Theory in general, is something that has been sweeping across the nation in the last year. And that’s “action civics”. In fact, even we here in Texas right now are fighting bills in our legislature that would seek to impose “action civics” on Texas K-12 students. “Action Civics” simply incorporates the view of humanity that is taught by Critical Race Theory. But its effect, in practice, is to teach K-12 students how to protest in favor of left-wing causes. (…)
Dr. Wenyuan Wu, Executive Director, Californians for Equal Rights Foundation
(09:08): Last year, I had the honor of participating in a heroic and historic campaign in California, which successfully defeated a “racial preference” ballot measure, Proposition 16, with an impressive margin of 57% versus 43%. But before we could sit back and enjoy the heartfelt triumph that preserved California’s constitutional principle of “equal treatment”, we at the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation were alerted about this fast-evolving case of “Critical Ethnic Studies” in California involving all levels, including the State Board of Education, the state legislature, and individual school districts. We then came to the knowledge of some outrageous cases, such as a third grade math class turning into “social identity training” in Cupertino, as well as teachers in the San Diego Unified School District being required to attend training sessions on “white privilege”, “anti-racism”, “white fragility”, and “spiritual murder”. Beneath the surface of these high-profile cases, there is a steady movement in California, and also nationwide, to radicalize “ethnic studies”, infuse Critical Race Theory into even mathematical education, and, ultimately, socially engineer our public education system to one that is illiberal, un-American, and detrimental to our students, especially the younger students. (…)
(10:45): This “model curriculum” is still deeply rooted in Critical Race Theory, and it is meant to become a national roadmap for K-12 classrooms nationwide. I can think of two general aspects toward a solution-driven path to counterbalance Critical Race Theory. The first regards overcoming various collective action problems to effectively mobilize key stakeholders. The second is related to a cultural and a foundational re-emphasis of our basic values. Both require extensive strategic and coordinated efforts of championing what is right and exposing what is wrong. So overcoming collective action problems, I think, is a key to launching a sustained opposition against the “holy temple” of Critical Race Theory. (…) We’re facing a well-funded and well-organized force of ideologues, schools, scholar-activists, corporate and political elites, and unions who have undergirded this social and cultural experiment for years, if not for decades. Some of them are true believers of this far-Left doctrine, but the majority are snake oil salesman. We need to expose them.
(12:02): But much more, in terms of community organizing and alliance-building, needs to be done. (…) Most individuals are afraid to speak up for understandable reasons, given the current climate of cancel culture and racial hysteria. This just means that a more important task for us is to influence, and even change, the prevalent culture and cultural norms. (…) Time after time, the American people have rejected racial preferences in public policymaking and embraced the principles of true equality and merit. Both principles are at stake in this emotional movement to make Critical Race Theory (C.R.T.) mainstream. This is a policy issue that, if framed correctly, can unite people of different racial backgrounds and those with different political persuasions. (…)
Dr. Richard A. Johnson III, Director, Booker T. Washington Initiative, T.P.P.F.
(12:54): The first test of a theory is, it has to be logical. And this does not meet the logical level, when we’re talking about the broader canvas of America. Then, the second test is, “Does it explain reality?” No, it does not explain reality. And the third, “Can it be disproven?” Absolutely. And so, when we look at C.R.T., I think that we actually give it too much credence, in terms of its power and strength. But, I think it is important to understand what could happen if we allow this to continue down the path without it being confronted and checked by greater minds. And, to Dr. Wu’s credit, she brought up something very important and that is we have to elevate the legislation that champions [other] theories that we have out there.
(14:10): We don’t elevate them enough. (…) We have some great champions that basically challenged C.R.T. We look at Frederick Douglas, and look at the life of Frederick Douglas, and the contributions of Frederick Douglas, the collaboration between Frederick Douglas and Lincoln and how they worked together to make America better. (…) The second champion we had was Booker T. Washington. Booker T Washington said, “Cast down your buckets, right where you are.” We all work together. Black, white, brown. Doesn’t matter. We’re here to make America better. And then, the third champion was Martin Luther King, who espoused the dream of judging individuals, not on the color of their skin, but the content of their character. (…) So my friends and colleagues, I say to you, after reading this document on Critical Race Theory and the key writings that form the movement, we don’t really have a lot to worry about. But, at the same time, I want you to be optimistic. Simply because, if a theory is not grounded in logic, and it doesn’t stand up to the test of explaining reality, no matter what you stack on it, it is going to fall. (…)
(15:43): When we look at [Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw ], and we look at where she’s coming from, [she] and her colleagues have a very different viewpoint from African-Americans like myself, who obtained all three of my degrees at historically black colleges and universities. And so, my colleagues and I don’t subscribe to looking at everything through, what Crenshaw in her paper would call, “whiteness”. We look at the world a whole lot differently. All black people don’t look at the world this way. Most of us don’t look at the world this way. And that is something that I want you to take use as a takeaway in our discussion today, that most black people in America do not paint everything in their lives with a “race brush”. That does not happen, is not going to happen, and it doesn’t represent us all.
(16:55): So how do you combat something that does not make sense? (…) Once you disproved the theory, and then back to Dr. Wu’s comment, elevate our other champions. We have wonderful things out here in America where people of all races are working together to overcome any type of obstacle that we face in America. Most people would think that the civil rights movement aligns itself with Black Lives Matter. It does not. Who would not raise their hands and say, “Black Lives Matter”? Yeah, they do. Are you a part of Black Lives Matter, the movement? No. Do white lives matter? Do brown lives matter? Do yellow lives matter? All Lives Matter. Everybody matters in America.
(17:50): The way that we combat these types of things is, we elevate the “champion causes” for Americans. Martin Luther King, when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, when he was told, he immediately made an announcement and donated every penny of it back to advance the movement, the Civil Rights Movement. Have you heard that from Black Lives Matter? No. Will you hear that, any of that from C.R.T.? (…) Here’s what we have to do to combat that: common sense, logic, supporting champions of our movement, speaking to parents, speaking to schools, and pushing back on ignorance. When you push back on ignorance, with logic and intelligence, the every-day, average, common man will get it. They’ll understand it. They will embrace it, and they will deflect from ignorance.
Nicole Neily, President and Founder, Speech First
(18:54): So, I’m going to follow up on what Dr. Johnson said and try to propose a couple solutions. Because this is co-hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (T.T.P.F.), I’m going to cite a Texan to start off with. Dick Armey said many years ago, “Politics goes to he who shows up.” And I think that is how we start to solve this. We have to start to show up again. For so long, what has happened at the school board meetings is, none of us have gone because, quite honestly, those meetings stink. Unfortunately, the other side has shown up. And that’s why there is a squeaky wheel that is forcing through a lot of these really bad policies. And so, we have to show up. We have to start to engage. (…)
(19:36): So, at the end of the day, we have to start to tell parents what is really going on and what your rights are. I think, as people have started to pull their kids out of school, looking at the different enrollment drops in all the public schools across the country as people realized they wanted to put their children into in-person education, a lot of people didn’t realize that, yes, you might be in an in-person education at a private school, but when you do that, you actually don’t have any more constitutional rights. You might have contract rights, but you don’t have constitutional rights. That’s something important that parents need to know.
(20:05): Conversely, if your child is in a public school, they’re forced to acknowledge their privilege, do a “privilege walk”, say things that they’re really uncomfortable about. I think about that case in Nevada, the Democracy Prep case that, is being run by John O’Brien. The things that they were trying to force that student to say, that’s “compelled speech”. That’s a First Amendment violation at a public school. That’s something that parents need to know. If your boys and girls are separated into two different groups, and the boys are told, “You’re part of the ‘cis-hetero patriarchy'”, which is something that happens, that might be a Title IX violation. And if your children are separated by race, the white children are told, “You have white privilege,” and the Asian children are told, “You’re white adjacent,” and the black and Hispanic children are told, “You’re part of a system, systemic racism; nothing you do will ever make a difference,” that could be a Title VI violation. (…)
(20:57): We need to tell parents where the lines are because I think there’s been thousands of parents across the country, as their kids have been in school or doing virtual school for the past few months, seeing what their kids are actually learning, and it makes them so uncomfortable. But the other side in this [issue] has done a really good job of isolating all of us, making us feel, “Am I the crazy one? Am I the only one who thinks like this?” And that’s why people aren’t speaking up. So, it’s so exciting to see that there are groups like “No Left-Turn in Education” that have been creating state chapters around the country because it starts to show people [they’re] not alone. You’re not crazy. There are lots of other people like you around. (…) Parents need to know how to engage. Some of the people on this call, probably a lot of you who are listening in, know how to write an op-ed. You know, how to write a letter to the editor.
(21:45): But frankly, I think about Bob in Omaha, who is trying to hold a job down, virtually school his kids, and not have a nervous breakdown in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. They don’t know where to start. People are not going to sort through 45 pages of National Review and New Discourses to figure out what’s going on with Critical Race Theory. We need to make it easier for parents to get involved. (…) I look at different incidents that are taking place across the country. Again, because this is T.T.P.F., I started to look into what’s going on in Austin… Recently, in Austin, there’s a big fight just North of y’all in Round Rock, because the junior high up there [is] trying to encourage everybody to read Ibram Kendi’s “Stamped” book in junior high. A couple of parents pushed back, and now the school board is reconsidering that decision. A couple parents spoke up, and now the district is reconsidering. That’s a big deal. That’s not hundreds of people. This is not armies in the street. This is a couple of parents saying, “Hey, I have some concerns.” (…) Let them know that people are watching them. And then, when you find out, tell everybody. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. This is a really big deal.
(22:49): Then finally, there is a major element of accountability here: You all need to run for school board, wherever you live. You have to run for school board and get on with a bunch of your friends. Maybe one of you will make it. Maybe you’ll all make it. But I think we have a really interesting opportunity because people are frustrated with their schools not opening. They’re frustrated with their school boards, talking smack about them. They have realized that the teacher’s unions in a lot of these jurisdictions are in it for themselves and these massive power grabs. (…) And I think there are basic things also that we can start to ask of our elected officials. Curriculum transparency will go a long way. Did you know that in Texas, there is higher ed. transparency? You should be allowed to get from a public university [website], within three clicks, to a syllabus of a class. But you cannot have that for a K-12 school. That blows my mind! I deserve to know what my kindergartener’s learning. (…) We have reached a point now where there is a really adversarial situation set up where schools are trying to “de-program” what they view as “parents’ values at home”. This is weird. This is not right. We have a right to raise our children. We have a right to teach our children the values that we believe in. (…).
(23:55): I realize that obviously not everybody wants to be the “tip of the spear” on this. And I’m so proud to see so many of you in the chat talk about the local groups you are doing. There has to be 10,000 of us. There has to be a hundred thousand of us out asking questions, showing up, putting people on the defensive about some of these issues. But for those of you who are not comfortable in doing that, you’re worried about getting doxed, your kid getting an uninvited from birthday party, losing your job, I get it. Find a reporter. Find somebody who will cover this because schools hate negative publicity. And that’s one thing I have learned in my work in higher ed. and now in the K-12 space. Once you start to shine a light on some of these issues, a lot of people will back off. And so, at the end of the day, we can all talk about it, but we also need to show up, and we need to make a difference.
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