Critical race theory (CRT) has dramatically undermined the academic value of policy debate and education itself over the years, according to a senior writer with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Writer and former high school debating coach Roy Maynard said that he has witnessed a shift over the years in school debating tradition in the United States.
According to Maynard, who taught policy debate for about 20 years, elements of CRT are now being used by students as a “blanket argument” in high school debates to “claim victimhood” and demand a ballot go their way.
“In cross examination debate, there’s a single topic every year … and within each topic, teams make a case. Under normal debate theory, the way that you counter that plan is you bring up negative evidence against it. That’s how it used to be,” Maynard told NTD’s “The Nation Speaks.”
“About 15 years ago, CRT started creeping in. The argument is called a ‘kritik’ from the German spelling,” Maynard explained. “Instead of arguing the affirmative case, the negative team will come in and argue the legitimacy of the United States itself.”
“It will argue the value of debate, it will argue that nothing that the affirmative plan wants to do will work because we’re [the United States] so inherently racist. The country is so irredeemable, that in the interest of social justice, the judge must vote negative. And that’s a very destructive kind of argument.”
Maynard said that the tradition of students researching a topic for a high school debate has now been set aside because CRT means you “don’t have to research anything, you can just walk in, use that argument, claim victimhood and demand the ballot go your way.”
“It’s really undermined the academic value of policy debate,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation senior writer said.
These arguments from students pushing CRT are even encouraged by the judges themselves, Maynard said, explaining that school debate judges are typically college debaters or former debaters at the high school level who are “steeped in CRT.”
“We found that those arguments were not only allowed, but they were encouraged by judges at the college level, even if the coaches had no idea what was going on in those classrooms,” he said.
“I was judging not too many years ago, where it came down to which team was more oppressed—’we should win because we’re more oppressed’, well, ‘I’m Hispanic’, well, ‘I’m female’, well, ‘I’m on the Asperger’s spectrum’, well, ‘I have a learning disability’—it really got down to that level, and it was very discouraging,” Maynard added.
Maynard’s remarks come as Texas is set to become the latest GOP-controlled state to ban teaching of CRT in public schools.
CRT—which espouses the idea that race is not natural, but socially constructed to oppress and exploit minorities—is an offshoot of the quasi-Marxist critical theory social philosophy that was promoted by the Frankfurt school of thought.
Former President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning CRT training in federal agencies in September 2020, with the White House describing it as “anti-American propaganda.”
After taking office, President Joe Biden reversed Trump’s September 2020 executive order and has pushed CRT training on a number of fronts.
Proponents of CRT have argued that it’s needed to demonstrate what they say is “pervasive systemic racism” and to facilitate rooting it out.
The Biden administration’s efforts have triggered widespread pushback from federal and state Republican lawmakers, conservatives, and related organizations, as well as parents.
The Texas state Senate on May 22 passed House Bill 3979, but it has not yet been finalized as some amendments continue to be scrutinized. While the bill doesn’t mention CRT by name, it apparently aims to ban the quasi-Marxist ideology in public and open-enrollment charter schools.
According to the bill text, teachers, administrators, and employees from state agencies, school districts, and open-enrollment charter schools are prohibited from teaching students that one race is inherently superior to another race or sex or that an individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive by virtue of his or her race or sex.
The measure also requires all Texas students to study the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Federalist Paper essays 10 and 15, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” and the first Lincoln–Douglas debate.
Maynard said that while enforceability of the bill may be an issue, it will send a strong message that CRT is “not appropriate for our children, that it’s not something that we should be teaching the public schools.”
He encouraged parents to get involved to ensure that, when signed into law, the Texas law is implemented.
“I’ve always said that the only true educational reform is parental involvement. If you want to be sure that your kids are being taught critical race theory, you’ve got to be involved,” Maynard said. “Be sure you know what they’re being taught, what they’re learning at school, and what’s going on in that classroom. You have a right to know.”
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.