Schools Use ‘Equity’ as Trojan Horse for Toxic Critical Race Theory

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In a clever move to utilize the existing modicum of “cultural competency” training, educators bent on revising American history and pushing equal outcomes have found a place to embed the elements of critical race theory. States are running it up the flagpole and out to local school boards in cleverly packaged messaging that demands equity.

The definition of cultural competency to date is hard to argue with. The term—used in practice for roughly 50 years— means “the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own,” according to the American Psychological Association. Self-reflecting on one’s attitudes and beliefs about varying cultures goes a long way toward approaching one another with understanding and respect. This is a far cry from revising a nation’s legitimate history for the purposes of appropriating a cultural bias leading to division and anti-American sentiments.

Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., signed into law a bill that will take effect on July 1, 2021 that requires teachers seeking licensure or renewal to pass a cultural competency test. This occurred after a commission was tasked with researching the concept. What is cultural competency according to this law?  Democrat proponents who supported the amendments adding the cultural competency requirement to existing legislation said the State Board of Education will determine its definition. Right now, it is absent from the bill.

Dig a little deeper and we find that the devil is in the details on the connection between cultural competency and critical race theory. Virginia adapted its concept of “equity” from the National Equity Project and developed a road map to equity plan. Virginia’s African American’s Superintendent’s Advisory Council put together a slide deck presentation included in the plan

The Africa American’s Superintendent’s Advisory Council told the State Board of Education that racial equity is the goal. The council defined equity as, “The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity.”

When school board members argue at local meetings with protesting parents present that they are not teaching critical race theory per se, or that they are merely seeking to ensure that all races represented in the classroom are treated fairly and respectfully, don’t be fooled. Their rhetoric veils the plan to require not only equal opportunities but guaranteed equal outcomes for all students. This aim disregards the liberties protected in the Constitution.  It is a textbook Marxist concept that has been proven not to work repeatedly throughout history. 

Other states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon, are also co-opting cultural competency to fulfill a new agenda. The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board cites a 2018 administrative rule requiring cultural competency training for teacher licensure or renewal. This program “promotes self-reflection” and explicitly references “systemic racism, gender identity, transgender students, sexual orientation.” It also says, “Training programs that must be designed to deepen teachers’ understanding of their own frames of reference, [and] the potential bias of these frames.”

It is one thing to treat students and others with respect to their racial heritage and sexual identity. It is another to stifle teachers’ freedom of speech regarding their personal views, and to use curricula based on the arguably false assumption of systemic racism. Tying this updated definition of cultural competency to licensure could result in licensing only teachers who agree with the activist curricula of equal outcomes versus equal opportunity, and the revisionist American history that is, at times, buried in the plans.

The John K. Maclver Institute for Public Policy’s staff wrote a piece June 7 in The Daily Signal warning Wisconsinites to look out for curriculum that is not called critical race theory, but is just the same. The writers urge parents to be aware of “one of the many other names for critical race theory, like culturally responsive teaching, equity, anti-racism, woke, implicit bias, white privilege—[all of which are] being taught in many school districts all across the state and [are] quickly on [the] way to fundamentally changing K-12 education in Wisconsin.”

Recently the Oregon State Department of Education dramatically modified math curriculum in the name of equity. It seems that math—the grounds for which judging its propositions is objective—would be untouchable by those hell-bent on leveling the playing field. Yet the Oregon State Department of Education has determined that a “pathway to math equity micro-course” is necessary in schools. Teachers will be required to “learn key tools for engagement, develop strategies to improve equitable outcomes for Black, Latinx, and multilingual students.” How will they ensure that all students, regardless of race or background, attain equal proficiency in math? 

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution clearly communicate the American idea that we are all “created equal.” America is the first nation to support every person’s right to pursue his own happiness, which surely includes his own opportunities. This is not enough for the activist agenda which attempts to disguise and force itself on our kids in schools. Equal opportunity is not enough for those who hold the utopian ideal of guaranteed equal outcomes. Since forced equality in outcome is ultimately unattainable, students and schools alike are destined to fail in this effort, and society will be the worse for it.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

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