Why CRT Opponents Will Win Some Battles But Ultimately Lose The War
Previously, I have tried to both define and clarify Critical Race Theory (CRT) including why opposition is misplaced (read racist) and its necessity in American education though concepts such as anti-racism training and the 1619 Project are not CRT though they are often conflated with it. Joy Pullman of the Federalist explains the uphill battle that CRT opponents have.
Traditional political activism is typically rigged against the success of constituents. In fact, there’s a long history of grassroots activity fizzling out whether it’s the Tea Party on the right or Occupy Wall Street on the left. In American education, this dynamic is perhaps even more established than in politics making it hard for parents to effectively organize.
Parents Whom Are CRT Opponents
Typically, parents turn out in droves to oppose something in education about once every decade. At most, they are able to tinker around the margins or get meaningless concessions, but Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Goals 2000, Outcome Based Education, and Rainforest Math are all still around in one form or another. This leads to a cycle of outrage, despair, exasperation, exhaustion, then finally indifference as parents realize that no place are Americans more poorly represented than in “public” education. Parents fighting critical race theory are making a fundamentally flawed assumption: That the government entities to which they appeal are responsive to them.
Without institutional help from an army of lawyers funded by conservatives or Republicans, parents are at a significant disadvantage in this fight. They can use traditional political activism, that has been working to some degree, although counter-backlash is inevitable and narrows perceived victories.These are scenarios where parents could be successful in eliminating CRT:
- Replace the school board which requires finding candidates, fielding campaigns, and waiting until the next election for results while subjecting themselves to intense personal smear campaigns that can affect their kids all while the instruction continues, possibly for years.
- They could go through the state legislature, which also requires lobbying lawmakers and crafting strong legislation which could take years.
- They could file lawsuits, but lawsuits usually take even more years to work out.
Teachers and Schools Fight CRT Opponents
Teachers and schools have lawyers which will make the battles over CRT more protracted. Under President Biden, federal agencies are putting taxpayer resources and enforcement behind CRT. Furthermore, teachers who believe in CRT are not going to stop because some Republican governor told them to, and there are many true-believer teachers (yours truly included). Many have tenure or union backing. A college-level textbook on the ideology from New York University Press noted even way back in 2012, “Today, many in the field of education consider themselves critical race theorists.”
Winning Some Battles But Losing The War
Passing laws to ban CRT are likely to be undermined by public schools and teachers because education is broadly sympathetic to CRT. Richard Hanania gives CRT opponents the bad news in a nutshell:
More important than what CRT bans say is who will be interpreting them. A 2017 survey of school teachers and education bureaucrats showed that they voted for Hillary over Trump, 50% to 29%. …there’s evidence that Democratic teachers are more committed to politics than Republican teachers, just as liberals care more about politics more generally. In 2020, educators who donated money to a presidential campaign were six times more likely to support Biden than Trump… And teachers are probably conservative compared to the kinds of people who write textbooks, design curriculums, and work in education departments.
With those kinds of numbers, there’s really nothing conservatives can do to make the schools friendlier to their ideas and values. …A state can ban CRT, but if it does, kids are still being taught by the same people who thought CRT for kindergartners was a good idea in the first place. Instead of passing the right law and relying on liberals to teach things more consistent with conservative values, simply transfer money from those liberals to people who would teach something else.
Any changes imposed by outraged parents can be reversed in one election cycle and usually are. This is one major reason the U.S. public school system is notoriously impervious to parent and taxpayer control meaning many people who discover CRT in their local schools will fail to eradicate it. At best, most efforts to do so will take many years and have many twists and turns. Even victories that do change what some children are taught will take massive investments of time and money, and be subject to reversal, sabotage, or subterfuge. CRT opponents have a long, winding, arduous road that will probably not get them where they want to go.