The presence of critical race theory (CRT) in K–12 education has become a prominent issue in some of the nation’s recent high-profile elections. In Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Glenn Youngkin, a Republican running on an anti-CRT platform, defeated former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who insisted that CRT isn’t being taught in Virginia’s K–12 classrooms and stated that parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach their children.
An outgrowth of Marxism, CRT interprets society through a Marxist dichotomy between “oppressor” and “oppressed,” but replaces the class categories with racial groups. Proponents of CRT see deeply embedded racism in all aspects of U.S. society, including in neutral systems such as constitutional law and standardized tests, and deem it to be the root cause of “racial inequity,” or different outcomes for different races.
Is CRT Being Taught in American Schools?
CRT isn’t being taught in American schools in a similar way that Maria Montessori’s pedagogy isn’t being taught in Montessori schools around the world. School administrators and teachers who endorse CRT don’t teach the college-level academic framework to young children, but incorporate its key elements into policies, training programs, curricula, teaching materials, class activities, and homework assignments.
Parents Defending Education, a parent-led nonprofit organization, has documented hundreds of such cases from across the country. For example, a class of third-graders at a San Jose, California, elementary school was instructed to “deconstruct their racial identities,” then rank themselves according to “power and privilege” they supposedly possess. In an elementary school in Washington’s Bellevue School District, second-grade students were told to have “explicit conversations about race, equity, and access” in an effort to help them “recognize and identify white culture.”
The effort to inject CRT into the curriculum is currently being advanced under various euphemisms such as “culturally responsive teaching” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to Christopher Rufo, an author and filmmaker best known for exposing how CRT infiltrates governments, schools, and businesses.
“There’s this revolving language system that they use to confuse, that they use to avoid, and that they use to obfuscate,” Rufo told EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program. “They’re deploying it because they refuse to defend critical race theory on the merits, because even they know that it’s indefensible politically.”
How Many States Are Taking Action Against CRT?
As of Nov. 22, 2021, 10 states have passed anti-CRT measures: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina. Arizona’s Supreme Court later overturned the CRT ban that existed as a part of the state’s 2022 budget bill, citing the state constitution requiring individual bills to encompass a single subject.
The proposals and laws combating CRT usually don’t explicitly mention the words “critical race theory,” but instead target specific concepts and beliefs that are a part of or derived from the ideology. Notable exceptions are those in Idaho and North Dakota.
Many state lawmakers modeled their anti-CRT measures after the Trump administration’s September 2020 executive order that banned “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping” in trainings for federal agencies and contractors. That order was rescinded in January 2021 on President Joe Biden’s first day in the White House.
Some legislative efforts also explicitly ban the teaching of The New York Times’ “The 1619 Project” or any curriculum based on it. Spearheaded by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the highly controversial project consists of a series of literature that collectively portrays the United States as an inherently racist nation built upon white supremacy.
These States Ban CRT by Law:
Arkansas—Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson on May 3, 2021, allowed Senate Bill 627 to become law without his signature. The law bans state entities, which don’t include public schools or colleges, from training employees about “divisive concepts” such as that Arkansas or the United States is “fundamentally racist or sexist.”
Idaho—House Bill 377, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little on April 28, 2021, declares that the tenets of CRT “exacerbate and inflame divisions” on the basis of sex, race, and other criteria in ways contrary to the well-being of the citizens of Idaho and the United States. The law bans public colleges and schools from directing or otherwise compelling students to “personally affirm, adopt, or adhere” to any of those tenets.
Iowa—Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, on June 8, 2021, signed into law House File 802, which orders government agencies, including public schools, to not teach, advocate, promote, or act upon “stereotyping, scapegoating, or prejudice toward others on the basis of demographic group membership or identity.” The law also says it doesn’t prevent the use of school curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism, slavery, racial oppression, segregation, and discrimination.
New Hampshire—A much-revised and cut-down version of anti-CRT legislation was passed as a part of House Bill 2 and signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on June 25, 2021, prohibiting the teaching in public schools and workplaces that any individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” or should be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, or gender identity. The original proposal contained a provision that would ban promoting the idea that New Hampshire or the United States is inherently racist.
North Dakota—On Nov. 12, 2021, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law House Bill 1508, a one-page measure requiring that school districts ensure “factual, objective” instruction for students and “may not include instruction relating to critical race theory in any portion” of the curriculum that they require or offer. The law defines CRT as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”
Oklahoma—Under House Bill 1775, signed into law on May 7, 2021, by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, students attending any of the state’s public colleges and universities can’t be forced to participate in “any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.” Schools are also required to not teach that any individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” due to their race or sex.
South Carolina—Certain provisions added to the education section of the state’s 2021–2022 budget bill pull funding from schools using teaching and training materials that promote ideas such as that an individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” on the basis of race or sex, or that “fault, blame, or bias” should be assigned to a race or sex. The bill became law on June 30, 2021.
Tennessee—Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, on May 25, 2021, signed into law Senate Bill 623, which bans schools from teaching or promoting assertions such as that “the rule of law does not exist,” “meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist,” or “all Americans are not created equal.” The law also says it doesn’t prohibit discussion of “controversial aspects of history,” including historical oppression of a certain race or religious group, so long as they remain “impartial.”
Texas—Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 17, 2021, signed into law Senate Bill 3 to replace his state’s existing anti-CRT law enacted in June 2021. In addition to the ban on concepts such as that any individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” by virtue of one’s race or sex, the reworked measure requires at least one teacher and one administrator at each school to undergo a civics training program, and that any teacher who chooses to discuss “a widely debated and currently controversial issue” must explore that topic “objectively and in a manner free from political bias.”
Anti-CRT Law in This State Is No Longer Valid
Arizona—Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed into law House Bill 2898 on June 30, 2021, prohibiting the use of “public monies for instruction that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex” in PreK–12 education programs and setting a $5,000 fine for violations. The Arizona Supreme Court on Nov. 2, 2021, upheld a trial court ruling that the bill was invalid, saying that the state constitution doesn’t allow bills containing multiple subjects.
Lawmakers in These States Have Proposed Measures to Ban CRT:
Alabama—Two bills have been pre-filed for the upcoming 2022 legislative session. House Bill 8 would ban public schools and colleges from teaching CRT or punishing students for not supporting or accepting CRT concepts. House Bill 11 would require public schools and colleges to fire employees who teach CRT or “classify students based on race or sex.”
Alaska—Republican state Rep. Tom McKay pre-filed a to-be-numbered bill that would ban schools from allowing students to be “instructed in, adopt, or adhere to” the tenets of CRT. It would also ban the teaching of The 1619 Project.
Florida—Republican state Rep. Randy Fine in September 2021 introduced House Bill 57 that would ban the use of “divisive concepts” in teaching and training in all public schools and colleges, state agencies, county, and municipal governments, and private government contractors. On Dec. 15, 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which would allow parents and teachers to sue schools, and employees to sue employers for trying to impose CRT or “woke” values upon them.
Kentucky—Bill Request 60, a pre-filed measure for the upcoming 2022 legislative session, would ban teachers from using learning materials that promote “division between or resentment of” different groups of people based on race, sex, religion, and class. It would also ban concepts such as that Kentucky or the United States are “fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.”
Louisiana—House Bill 564, introduced by Republican state Rep. Ray Garofalo in April 2021, would prohibit all schools and colleges from teaching a series of “divisive concepts” including that racial equity should be prioritized over the equal treatment of all people.
Maine—Republican state Rep. Meldon Carmichael in February 2021 introduced House Paper 395, which would prohibit public school teachers from engaging in “political, religious or ideological advocacy” in the classroom, segregating students according to race, or “singling out one racial group of students as responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another racial group of students,” with penalties for violations up to and including termination of the teacher.
Michigan—Two bills are currently in committees. Senate Bill 460 would ban “anti-American and racist theories” such as that the United States is a fundamentally racist nation, that the U.S. Constitution is a fundamentally racist document, or that certain races are fundamentally oppressive or oppressed. House Bill 5097 would require that the state’s model core academic curriculum content standards do not include “any form of race or gender stereotyping.” It’s almost certain Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will veto the bills should any of them reach her desk.
Missouri—Under House Bill 952, schools and colleges could lose state funding if they implement any racial or social justice-centered curricula, including, but not limited to, The 1619 Project, Learning for Justice of the Southern Poverty Law Center, We Stories, programs by Educational Equity Consultants, BLM at School, Teaching for Change, and Zinn Education Project.
New Jersey—Republican state Sens. Michael Testa and Joe Pennacchio in November 2021 introduced Senate Bill 4166, which would ban key CRT concepts from being taught in the classroom, and would require public school teachers to present “materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue.”
New York—Introduced in August 2021 by Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, Assembly Bill 8253 is a one-page bill that would ban courses that teach students to bear collective responsibilities or feel collective guilt for actions committed previously by people of the same race, or courses that teach students to discriminate based on race. It would also ban schools from requiring students or employees to learn or study The 1619 Project.
North Carolina—Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, on Sept. 10, 2021, vetoed House Bill 324, which would have banned public schools from teaching ideas such as that an individual is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive” based on his or her race or sex.
Ohio—House Bill 322 and 327 would prohibit public schools from teaching “divisive concepts” such as that “members of one race cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race,” or accepting private funding for any curriculum that promotes those concepts. They would also ban extra credit for political advocacy work.
Pennsylvania—House Bill 1532 would prohibit public schools and colleges from promoting or teaching “racist or sexist concepts,” including hosting a speaker who advocates those concepts. It would also grant the state attorney general authority to investigate any complaint filed by a Pennsylvania resident and suspend state funding for the institution found in violation.
Rhode Island—The Republican-sponsored House Bill 6070 sought to mandate that any publicly funded contract, grant, or training program to include provisions prohibiting teaching “divisive concepts” and prohibit making any individual “feel discomfort, guilty, anguish or any distress” on account of their race or sex. The bill died in committee.
West Virginia—Under Senate Bill 618, public school teachers would be fired for teaching or training students to believe certain “divisive concepts,” but could discuss those concepts as part of a larger course of academic instruction in an “objective manner and without endorsement.” House Bill 2595 would pull state funding from schools that teach or promote “divisive acts.”
Wisconsin—Senate Bill 409 would ban public universities and colleges from teaching students and training employees about “race or sex stereotyping.” Senate Bill 410 would prohibit race or sex stereotyping in training provided to employees of local and state governments. Senate Bill 411 would prohibit such concepts from being taught in public schools, with violations resulting in a loss of 10 percent of state funding. It’s almost certain that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will veto these bills should any of them reach his desk.
Governing Boards of Education in These States Have Taken Action Against CRT:
Alabama—The Alabama State Board of Education in October 2021 approved a resolution to ban “offering K-12 instruction that indoctrinates students in social or political ideologies or theories that promote one race or sex above another.”
Florida—Under the latest guidelines by the Florida Board of Education, CRT and Holocaust denial are deemed “theories that distort historical events” and inconsistent with the board’s approved standards. Florida teachers are also not allowed to utilize materials from The 1619 Project, because it describes the American founding as something other than the “creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
Georgia—In an 11–2 vote on June 3, 2021, the Georgia Board of Education approved a resolution stating that the United States “is not a racist country” and that Georgia “is not a racist state.” The board also affirmed in the resolution that it will not support or impart any K–12 public education resources or standards that “indoctrinate students in social, or political, ideology or theory” or “promote one race or sex above another.”
Utah—The Utah State Board of Education on Aug. 3, 2021, implemented a set of rules prohibiting teachers from promoting or endorsing ideas such as that the content of one’s character is determined by his or her race.
Attorneys General of These States Found CRT to Be Unlawful:
Arkansas—In an Aug. 16, 2021, opinion, Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called CRT a “neo-Marxist ideology that distorts and rewrites history,” and that “instituting practices based on CRT, professed ‘anti-racism,’ or associated ideas” can violate federal anti-discrimination laws and the state constitution. Her opinion is non-binding and therefore doesn’t ban teaching CRT in Arkansas schools.
Montana—Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican, on May 27, 2021, declared that the use of CRT and “anti-racism” is discriminatory and violates federal and state civil rights law. Any school or public workplace that uses CRT or “anti-racist” training could lose funding and may be liable for damages.
Governors of These States Have Encouraged Legislative Action Against CRT:
South Dakota—Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, was one of the first high-profile elected officials to sign the “1776 Action” pledge, a promise to reject progressive activism and CRT from K–12 schools in her state. On Dec. 21, 2021, Noem unveiled a one-page draft legislation (pdf) that she said would block CRT as the basis of education in South Dakota colleges and schools.
Mississippi—In his budget recommendation for fiscal year 2023, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves urges state lawmakers to pass an anti-CRT bill to “prevent these destructive lies from being taught in any classroom funded by the taxpayers.” He also proposed a $3 million investment in a “Patriotic Education Fund” to educate students on the “exceptional good” their nation has achieved.