by Leah Byers
Former Development Officer, John Locke Foundation
Opposition to classroom indoctrination is mounting. In North Carolina and across the nation, concerned parents and citizens are demanding accountability for the content and values being taught to their children in K-12 public schools. Chief concerns center around ideas about Neo-Marxism, wokeism, and the culmination of those ideas in the form of “Critical Race Theory,” or CRT.
Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Christopher Rufo has an excellent overview of CRT available at the City-Journal, linked here. The piece details the history and harms of CRT and how it is playing out in education, corporate, and government settings across the country. Carolina Journal has also featured an excellent opinion on the Marxist roots of CRT submitted by Joshua Peters.
Many parents and concerned citizens became aware of the influence of CRT in public school classrooms when school came home via remote learning during school shutdowns in 2020. The June 2021 Civitas Poll found 65 percent of registered voters surveyed believed that K-12 classroom instruction has gotten more political in the last five years. Fifty-seven percent of respondents believe teachers share their personal beliefs in the classroom to influence the beliefs of students. Only 7 percent of respondents believe nothing should be done to combat classroom indoctrination.
Statewide and nationally, opponents of CRT have reason to be encouraged that their efforts are having an impact.
The largest national teachers’ union is the National Educators Association (NEA), the parent organization of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). The NEA hosts an annual meeting at which its members vote on resolutions to establish the organization’s official positions on various topics. For years, Locke’s Dr. Bob Luebke has documented the organization’s progression of radicalization.
This year, NEA proposed resolutions included a directive to compile a list of Critical Race Theory opponents and promotion of CRT, along with Black Lives Matter and the discredited 1619 Project.
NEA received enough pushback and bad press on their resolutions that they pulled them from their website. This is encouraging, given the “woke” resolutions from years past were not self-censored in that way. This implies that the NEA establishment may be getting too far-left even for its progressive membership.
Even though North Carolina does not permit public-sector collective bargaining, every NCAE member in North Carolina pays dues to both the state affiliate and the NEA. These individuals, few as they may be, are in our taxpayer-funded schools, educating the next generation of North Carolinians; we have an obligation to monitor the doctrines promoted by the organization to which they belong.
North Carolina has experienced its fair share of classroom indoctrination. North State Journal reporter A.P. Dillon has meticulously documented cases of CRT implementation across North Carolina’s education districts. Locke’s Dr. Terry Stoops serves on Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s FACTS Task Force, which released its findings in a report this week.
In response, the General Assembly is exploring three policy options to combat CRT: classroom transparency, a direct ban on the promotion of CRT principles, and an amendment to the state constitution that would ban discrimination in schools and state government. While some of these measures have passed either the state House or Senate, none of them have made it through the complete legislative process. House Bill 324, as amended by the Senate, bans the promotion CRT principles and is moving through the legislative process this week.
Unfortunately, avoiding or overcoming a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper or reaching the necessary three-fifths threshold for a constitutional amendment could prove tricky for any of the proposals, since Republicans will need some Democrat support to accomplish those objectives.
Critical race theory is steeped in irrational arguments and ultimately moves our country away from our ideal of equality. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic that CRT can be defeated in classrooms and more broadly. In North Carolina, at least, public policy and public opinion seem to be pushing back against this harmful philosophy.
Authors note: This piece has been edited to correct an error in the version of the Senate Proposed Committee Substitute that was adopted.