Michigan Should Reject Critical Race Theory From Education

COMMENTARY Education

Michigan Should Reject Critical Race Theory From Education

Oct 25th, 2021 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Jonathan Butcher

Will Skillman Fellow in Education

Jonathan Butcher is the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation.
State officials should consider proposals that make public school curriculum transparent so that parents and taxpayers can review what educators are presenting to students, Troy Aossey / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Whistleblowers found educators in Grand Haven High School were using materials that taught intersectionality, one of critical race theory’s foundational ideas.

Parents and taxpayers deserve to know when educators are teaching critical race theory in classrooms because they are paying for this discriminatory instruction.

No parent wants their children to face prejudice and discrimination—not at play and certainly not in the classroom.

It’s no secret that state universities and K-12 schools are teaching critical race theory. And if public schools are teaching it, that means your taxes are paying for it.  

In Michigan, whistleblowers found educators in Grand Haven High School were using presentation materials that taught intersectionality, one of critical race theory’s foundational ideas. With intersectionality, educators instruct students to consider themselves oppressed in multiple, intersecting ways based on their race and gender—regardless of their behavior or someone else’s actions. Oppression is simply everywhere.

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The Grand Haven presentation also cited Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi, who has explained in interviews that his work is based on critical race theory. Kendi says it is necessary to implement new forms of discrimination today to counter past discrimination.

The Grand Haven slide show features Kendi’s claim that standardized tests are instruments of racism, used to demonstrate that white students are superior to black students. This, of course, is a myth—one I dispense with in my book, Splintered: Critical Race Theory and the Progressive War on Truth.

Officials at Grand Ledge Public Schools are paying a Critical Race Theorist $200/hour to advise them on how to incorporate this racially discriminatory philosophy in their schools. The consultant, Michigan State University professor Dorinda Carter Andrews, has been quoted as saying capitalism is racist (a point Kendi also argues in How to be an Antiracist).  

According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, in August 2021 Grand Ledge board members approved the hire of an administrator to lead the district’s so-called diversity, equity and inclusion program. Capitol Confidential also reports that parents attending the district’s June and August board meetings said they opposed Critical Race Theory and were removing their children from district schools. 

Michigan parents and taxpayers deserve to know when educators are teaching critical race theory in classrooms because, as my colleague Jay Greene noted last month, they are paying for this discriminatory instruction. They are also paying for the salaries of staff whose job it is to promote racially-focused programs at the University of Michigan and other state universities. The Wolverines have 163 staff working on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, more than any other school in the Power 5 athletic conferences. On average, schools in the Power 5 have 45 staff members working on DEI initiatives.  

In a recent report, Greene and his co-author, James Paul, found that U-M has nearly 15 employees working on DEI for every employee working with students who have special needs. The school has double the number of DEI personnel as faculty in its history department.  

And Grand Ledge officials aren’t the only ones using taxpayer dollars to bring critical race theorists such as Kendi to campus. Last November, U-M paid him $20,000 to speak for one hour as part of a virtual event for students and faculty.

Jay and James argue that the number of DEI staff on college campuses is disproportionate to the number of instructional staff and other employees working on schools’ original purpose of educating students. Policymakers should demand evidence that the presence of a large DEI staff helps schools achieve objectives directly related to student success. If not, policymakers should require that schools redirect funding from DEI programs to departments and activities dedicated to instruction.  

For K-12 schools, legislators in Michigan and approximately half of all U.S. states introduced or adopted proposals this year to reject the application of critical race theory in K-12 classrooms. State officials should consider proposals that make public school curriculum transparent so that parents and taxpayers can review what educators are presenting to students, as lawmakers in Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona, and elsewhere have done.  

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Lawmakers should also consider proposals that prohibit any public official from compelling a teacher or student to believe or profess any idea that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the idea that individuals should be adversely or advantageously treated based on their race, as The Heritage Foundation’s model proposal for state policymakers explains. 

No parent wants their children to face prejudice and discrimination—not at play and certainly not in the classroom. Yet critical race theory encourages students to see themselves and others through a racial lens—one that separates them into categories of victim and oppressor. 

Such teachings leave no room for discussion and create division and animosity, not civil discourse and civic responsibility. Michigan lawmakers should consider proposals from states nearby to help them prevent taxpayers from bankrolling coercion and bigotry. 

This piece originally appeared in the Detroit News