In recent weeks, the state of Arizona has intensified its attack in its schools on an entire branch of study — critical race theory. Books and literature that, in the state’s view, meet that definition have been said to violate a provision in the state’s law that prohibits lessons “promoting racial resentment.” Officials are currently bringing to bear all their influence in the public school curriculum, going so far as to enter classrooms to confiscate books and other materials and to oversee what can be taught. After decades of debate over whether we might be able to curtail ever so slightly the proliferation of violent pornography, the censors have managed a quick and thorough coup over educational materials in ethnic studies.
11 thoughts on “Linda Alcoff on censorship of critical race theory”
That’s interesting. I didn’t know violent pornography was being distributed in public schools. Sure makes me wish I had gone someplace else for high school!
My problem is that I DO think critical race theory promotes racial resentment (learning about racism certainly made me, as a white woman, angry that it took me 20+ years to be taught about white privilege) ….. only I think we NEED some more racial resentment in the right settings in order to have some neglected and necessary conversations.
“Racial resentment,” IMO, is too broad a term to legally enforce and denies the role that negative emotions play in creating positive actions.
How about we start arguing that racial implicit bias is a form of racial resentment, and so all curricula that fails to take critical race theory into account promotes racial resentment insofar as it promotes the attitudinal status quo?
What is going on????
Not sure why there are laws about such things, but I’d probably discourage critical race theory being taught in high schools too, if only because I find philosophical issues of race both very interesting and very difficult – and I’d worry that high school teachers would make a hash of it.
It would likely turn into something else, as is often the case with things like environmental ethics. I’m sure there is some good environmental ethics taught in public schools, but my experience is that more often then not it is just environmental advocacy of some sort, and students end up parroting not very well thought out ideas.
Though, perhaps being exposed to badly presented philosophy is better than nothing.
this is not just high schools, btw (if critical race theory was ever taught in a high school) – this is all of Arizona’s public *universities*.
No, sk, I don’t think so. Only school districts and charter schools.
Where are you getting the part about universities?
ah shoot, sorry; i misunderstood. i was remembering an earlier version of the legislation. this does indeed seem targeted at tucson unified’s program.
at any rate, yeah. i’m not sure how teaching american history can avoid producing racial resentment, wherever it is taught. not that that’s a bad thing,as ariseile notes above.
It seems fair to say that there are various ways to teach “critical race theory,” and that some of those ways are completely appropriate for high school and should be recommended for high school. I think it would clearly be a bad idea to teach complex social and cultural theory in high school for exactly the reason ajkreider notes – most high school social studies/history teachers aren’t qualified to teach it and the material is probably too advanced and abstract for the age group.
But you can teach critical race theory in a different and more appropriate sense. You can teach a kind of ameliorative project where the accomplishments of minority groups are given equal weight and consideration.
Even if it is the case that it’s a bad idea to teach critical race theory in high school (And I don’t think this is the case; when I was in high school, I had some teachers that were better than others. What I learned well was not a matter of what I was learning, but rather who from), that’s not all that’s going on here. It’s not just critical race theory, it’s teaching history from a different (and, in my view, often more accurate) perspective– and this sort of thing doesn’t only happen in Arizona (e.g., http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/tea-party-tennessee-textbooks-slavery_n_1224157.html).
We can be thankful that the ignorant seldom take the time to mask their own bias and insecurity. To publicly announce these titles will be removed from classrooms due to the fear of “promoting racial resentment” is fairly laughable. Had they only found some other way to justify the change, perhaps it wouldn’t come off quite as suspicious. Critical race theory is one of the only disciplines that actually instigates candid discussion on race and its significance to present society and contemporary culture. Furthermore, critical race theory engages the white and non-white voice and in its true form does not outright condemn one race over another.
It seems to me this is an ill-advised act by a state legislature/judiciary who is afraid to talk about race. Makes sense for a state that makes no bones about passing racially-charged legislation and denying the obvious racial implications…
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