The president of America’s second-largest teacher’s union has said Critical Race Theory is not being taught in public schools as she prepares a legal defense fund for teachers accused of teaching the controversial practice.
In her remarks to the 1.7 million members of the American Federation of Teachers on Tuesday, President Randi Weingarten vowed legal action to protect any member who ‘gets in trouble for teaching honest history,’ as more than 20 states consider bills banning the theory, which claims racism is systemic and ingrained in American society.
She said it is not being taught in elementary, middle and high schools, and is only taught at college or graduate studies, ‘but culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as [critical race theory] to try to make it toxic,’ she said, according to the Washington Post.
‘They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history,’ she said, noting that the union is preparing litigation and has a legal defense fund ‘ready to go.’
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, claimed critical race theory is not being taught in primary schools, but announced the creation of a legal fund to represent teachers who are being accused of teaching the theory. She is pictured here at a rally outside the Supreme Court in June in support of the For the People Act
Six states have banned the critical race theory and another dozen are considering passing similar resolutions
The fund includes $2.5 million to represent teachers accused of teaching the controversial lesson plan, and the union is also considering filing lawsuits against states that have passed legislation limiting how racism could be taught.
At least six states have passed new laws limiting how race can be taught in the classroom, and similar proposals are being considered in at least a dozen others.
Many of the bills are intended to bar the teaching of critical race theory – an academic framework that examines history through the lens of racism. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
Last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law forbidding schools from teaching that people ‘should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress’ because of their race or sex.
It adds that slavery and racism can only be taught as a deviation from the nation’s ‘authentic founding principles’ of liberty and equality.
Bills in some other states threaten to fine individual teachers who violate the rules or reduce state funding to their schools.
‘Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history,’ Weingarten said in her remarks for a virtual address to union members on Tuesday.
‘Teaching the truth is not radical or wrong. Distorting history and threatening educators for teaching the truth is what is truly radical and wrong.’
In an interview with the Associated Press, Weingarten said the union is adding $2.5 million to an existing legal defense fund in anticipation of local fights over the teaching of race. The funding will be used to defend teachers who are disciplined for teaching about slavery and racism, Weingarten said.
The union is also considering filing lawsuits to get clarification about new state laws limiting how racism can be discussed in schools, she said.
‘We’re looking at these laws to see if courts will give some clarification in advance,’ Weingarten said. ‘It just looks like it´s an attempt to erase so much of the history of the United States.’
Lawn signs opposing the critical race theory were posted outside a school board meeting in Virginia last month
Virginians gathered to rally against critical race theory at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg on June 12
One woman held up a sign claiming the theory creates racial tension
Some parents held signs showing their opposition to the theory as the meeting went on inside
Critics of the theory claims it separates children into two categories based on their skin color – oppressed or oppressor
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The fight over critical race theory in schools has escalated in the United States over the last year.
The theory has sparked a fierce nationwide debate in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the country over the last year and the introduction of the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times in 2019 to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, reframes American history by ‘placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the US narrative’.
The debate surrounding critical race theory regards concerns that some children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Those against critical race theory have argued it reduces people to the categories of ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressed’ based on their skin color.
Supporters, however, say the theory is vital to eliminating racism because it examines the ways in which race influence American politics, culture and the law.
Once an obscure academic idea, critical race theory has become a political rallying cry for Republicans who argue that it sows division and makes children feel guilty for being white.
But Weingarten said the concept has mostly been taught at the college level and is not taught at the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools.
She claimed that conservatives are invoking the theory to bully teachers and prevent any critical discussion of the nation’s history. Some of the state laws are so expansive, she said, that they appear to prevent any accurate lesson on the Civil War, slavery or its abolition.
‘Teaching America’s history requires considering all the facts available to us – including those that are uncomfortable – like the history of enslavement and discrimination toward people of color and people perceived as different,’ she wrote in her comments.
‘Years ago, the country unified against Holocaust deniers. We must unite again to address racism and its long-term effects.’
Her remarks came just two days after she was accused of gaslighting parents by tweeting ‘these bans on teaching history and discussing racism are so dangerous.’
In response, New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz wrote: ‘No one gaslights quite like Randi Weingarten gaslights.’
Others on Twitter also called out her remarks, with user GoPackJo saying, ‘If you need to lie in order to push your agenda, it’s gotta be awful,’ and Daniela Oertli writing that it is ‘Incredibly deceitful to pretend that teaching and discussing racism can only happen in the framework of CRT.’
@LibertyBellaDon, meanwhile, wrote that ‘CRT is neither history nor a “discussion” on racism. It’s a one-sided view that does not allow for a “discussion,”‘ and Marilyn Muller said: ‘Let’s not misappropriate the word history, Randi.’
‘I don’t know one American that’s against ensuring all students know all history facts, but segregating students into one of two categories—oppressed or oppressor— is teaching children to #BeRacist,’ Muller wrote.
And @aphofer asked, ‘So which is it, “we aren’t teaching CRT in schools” or “CRT=History?”
‘Neither is close to the truth,’ he wrote.
Over the weekend, Weingarten tweeted that bans on critical race theory were bans on history
People took to Twitter afterwards to criticize her remarks, accusing her of gaslighting parents
Meanwhile, the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association has deleted its agenda item to discuss their support for their theory, according to Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, who asked: ‘Why are they covering up their support for CRT?’ in a tweet on Tuesday.
The union had recently approved a resolution to promote critical race theory through its existing channels, work to ‘fight back’ against opponents of the practice.
It also wants to assemble a team to teach it to union members and create a ‘national day of action’ to start a dialogue about systemic racism on October 14 – George Floyd’s birthday.
The resolution reads that the NEA will ‘provide an already-created, in-depth, study that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism (human centered points of view) and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.’
It continues to say that the NEA plans to ‘publicly (through existing media) convey its support for the accurate and honest teaching of social studies topics, including truthful and age-appropriate accountings of unpleasant aspects of American history, such as slavery, and the oppression and discrimination of Indigenous, Black, Brown, and other peoples of color, as well as the continued impact this history has on our current society.
‘The Association will further convey that in teaching these topics, it is reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks for understanding and interpreting the impact of the past on current society, including critical race theory.’
At the union’s national meeting last week, president Becky Pringle urged teachers to prepare students for a society that ‘has wrestled with the sins of its past’ and learned from them.
‘If this grand experiment in democracy is to succeed, if the inhabitants of our nation are to prosper, we must continuously do the work to challenge ourselves and others to dismantle the racist interconnected systems, and the economic injustices that have perpetuated systemic inequities,’ she said.