by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Conservatives are on the march in the political offensive against the teaching of Critical Race Theory and related racialist concepts in K-12 public schools, a battle that has moved into state legislatures. I have written about some of the philosophical problems with the “anti-anti-CRT” movement. But it is also the case that the anti-CRT initiatives must navigate a series of political and legal obstacles, and prudent consideration of those is a worthwhile task for those of us who believe in that cause.
Greg Lukianoff, CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has some thoughts worth reading. … FIRE is, as I have detailed, an essential defender of free speech rights in higher education, without which conservative college and graduate students would be in a much worse situation. As you might expect, Lukianoff is somewhat skeptical of using state laws to limit the teaching of ideas in any school, particularly universities, but he takes a thoughtful approach to the important distinctions: between public and private schools, between universities and K-12 schools, between academic freedom and the power of government to intimidate and indoctrinate students. …
… [W]hile Lukianoff believes that many anti-CRT laws are constitutional, he warns that poorly-drafted laws can end up banning the teaching of things that the legislators never intended to ban, and can lead to confusion and discord at the school level. But he rejects the view that the laws are reacting to entirely chimerical concerns, citing multiple examples of “legitimately concerning documented cases of K-12 students being singled out due to their race and made to participate in exercises that are, arguably, racially discriminatory,” citing the California state curriculum as a particularly noxious example of political and racial indoctrination, and observing that “what opponents of ‘CRT’ are getting at is a philosophy that comes directly in conflict with small-L liberalism…the rise and widespread adoption of a philosophy that relies on genetic essentialism, overgeneralization, guilt by association…shame and guilt tactics, and deindividuation.” This is a worthy thing to oppose, especially if you believe in classically liberal values.