To Our Community:
In light of recent national and local conversations and controversy regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT), NAACP-Culpeper would like to offer support, guidance, and clarity to our community. Below you will find information regarding CRT as well as teaching practices that are centered on equity.
What is CRT?
CRT is an academic framework that examines the impact of systemic racism on American society. It is not taught in K-12 schools because it is not developmentally appropriate to do so; it is used in fields of professional and academic research. Some of the underpinning assumptions of CRT, however, can already be found in curricula in many schools. In recent months, CRT has become a catch-all term for school programs (teacher education, curriculum, and more) that focus on anti-racist practices, social justice, and/or diversity and equity.
Is CRT new?
No. CRT became widely read and used beginning in the 1970s in legal research. The practices that are being inaccurately described as CRT (anti-racist education, for example) are also not new. Classroom conversations that include discussions about race and racism are also not new (although it is important to note that this is not CRT). In fact, even early childhood curricula have included discussions about skin color and racial identity for many decades. Since race is a part of people’s identities (just like where they were born or what holidays they celebrate or how their families are structured), conversations about race happen all the time in schools. Additionally, it is easy to find examples of discussions about race that occur in history or English classes for older students, since studies about history and English are studies about individuals and groups of people. When you study people, you also will encounter issues of race and equity. It is incredibly difficult (not to mention bad practice), for example, to teach the American Civil War without discussing race.
So what does teaching for equity look like?
Some of the objections to CRT can be more accurately described as objections to teaching for equity (which can include social justice education, culturally relevant teaching, anti-racist teaching, and more-these are different from each other but overlap in important ways). Teaching for equity includes: ensuring that all students’ identities are welcomed and celebrated; providing instructional materials that reflect a wide variety of perspectives (including various racial identities); a curriculum that is high-level, accessible to all students and emphasizes critical thinking; and ongoing teacher learning so that educators are reflecting on their practices in a continual way.
In a classroom, this looks like a library of books and resources that include lots of different kinds of characters. It can also be a classroom rich in discussion about current events so kids have ample opportunity to practice critical thinking and discourse. It may also be a history unit that includes several primary resources from different demographic groups, so that students may consider multiple perspectives. In a primary classroom, it may look like a read aloud about a community much like theirs, a rural one, but in an entirely different part of the world. It can also look like a guest speaker coming to share how their family celebrates a holiday unfamiliar to most of the students in the class.
Does teaching for equity teach Black, Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial children to feel victimized?
No. Many families are concerned about this-no one wants children to feel dis-empowered or victimized. When multiple perspectives are presented, however, children of color are more likely to find themselves in the learning, which leads to a deeper and more rigorous educational experience. Classrooms in which students are welcomed to bring their full identities to the community, including their racial identities, are more likely to be classrooms in which students feel safe and known. This also leads to greater and deeper learning.
Does it teach White children to feel guilty?
No. This is a concern of many parents of White children, and understandably so. No one wants their children to feel guilty or upset, including teachers who teach for equity; that’s not the goal. Teaching about the history of race and racism should empower students to make the world better and more equitable. Slavery and Jim Crow, for example, are painful parts of our history, but students need to understand how these came about and how the lingering effects of them are still apparent today so that they may be empowered to ensure that we continue to work toward equity for all. Including multiple voices when studying periods of history or when reading literature also asks students to consider new ideas and perspectives. Moreover, asking students to engage in critical discourse prepares them to be active citizens of their community, both now and when they are grown.
Is teaching about race and racism indoctrination?
No. Presenting students with resources that reflect multiple perspectives means that students are learning to look critically at historical events, literature, media and more. All of us want our students to think critically and independently…that’s what this kind of teaching supports. It teaches children HOW to think, not WHAT to think.
Does NAACP-Culpeper support CRT in our K-12 schools?
No-CRT is for higher ed, not K-12! We DO, however, support teaching for equity, which is often inaccurately conflated with CRT. We know that structural racism exists-the data is unequivocal on this. We also know that education is one area of our society where we simply cannot ignore opportunity gaps. Every child deserves a high-quality, rigorous education that pushes them to reach their full potential. Currently, not all students have these opportunities; students of color, especially Black students, continue to achieve at much lower levels than their White peers in Culpeper, Madison, and Rappahannock counties. There are significant gaps between White and Black/Hispanic students’ reading levels, math achievement, graduation rates, and participation in gifted education programs and AP programs.
Teaching for equity supports the closing of these gaps. Research shows that a positive school climate where all students feel welcomed and valued leads to higher achievement for all children (students of color as well as White students), as does rigorous, high-level instructional programming. Teaching for equity IS high-quality, rigorous education because it engages students in higher-level thinking that encourages them to consider multiple perspectives. It also affirms and welcomes the identities of all students in a classroom, not just those in the racial majority.
As a civil rights organization, we will continue to fight for this every single day. Education IS a civil right.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . You are also invited to attend our NAACP general membership meetings, held over zoom the third Thursday each month.
NAACP-Culpeper Education Committee
Dr. Laurel Blackmon, Chair