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Why so-called 'critical race theory' has become a flashpoint in some public schools

July 2, 2021


The term ‘critical race theory,’ or CRT — often a graduate-level framework examining how the legacy of slavery and segregation in America is embedded in its legal systems and policies — has been used by activists to push against instructional content on race and systemic racism in the U.S. The debate over the way race and systemic racism in school curricula has roiled school districts and state legislatures nationwide. 

Five Facts

  • What is critical race theory and what is ‘anti-racism’ as described in this piece? 
  • Who is trying to shape the way race and American history are taught in this piece?
  • Why has critical race theory become a point of contention in school board meetings lately, according to this piece?
  • Where and When are bills being introduced to limit or regulate the teaching of systemic racism in public schools? 
  • How might these new laws affect what is taught in some schools, according to the teachers interviewed here?


Focus Questions

What do you think are some of the benefits of learning about difficult or painful moments in American history?

Why do you think school boards like that of Loudon County in Virginia are facing this backlash now, even when their schools are not teaching critical race theory?

Media literacy: If critical race theory itself is not being taught in schools, including in Loudon County, why do think the title of this piece is ‘Why Americans are so divided over teaching ‘critical race theory’?

For More

  • To gain more background and view discussion on the current situation around critical race theory, check out this Educator Voice EXTRA Zoom session with author Frederick Joseph. Here’s one of the clips from the session: 

  • To read about Tennessee’s ban on teaching critical race theory, see this article.
  • For a more general background on what CRT is (the legal is and what it involves, see this article

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