LETTER: Hot-button topic

Linda Brown/Piper

To the editor:

The Leavenworth Times has published at least two letters opposing the teaching of critical race theory in the schools that were virtually identical, word-for-word documents, not the original thoughts of the two authors but something they appropriated without much apparent understanding.

That dubious act goes to show how little understanding there is about this hot-button topic. Indeed, the phrase itself has no fixed meaning, which makes it nearly impossible to have a conversation about educational content that is being labeled “critical race theory” because that content may not have any bearing on critical race theory. 

I know this: Critical race theory is not a synonym for culturally relevant teaching about how racism in this country has shaped our public policy – things like segregated housing, criminal justice and enslavement itself. 

I don’t know any teachers who want to teach critical race theory. I know many teachers who desperately want to make their classrooms safe and culturally relevant for all their students, particularly those who are traditionally underserved, so they can learn at their highest potential. 

History teachers need to be able to teach about the Trail of Tears, the Civil War and the civil rights movement. English teachers need to be able to teach texts by Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Isabel Allende and Sandra Cisneros. Teachers need to be able to set up classrooms that are affirming, that bring out the best in students and support their learning and independent thinking, helping students reflect on the assumptions they make about other people before they even know those people. 

That’s not teaching critical race theory. That’s teaching.