My recent Texas Scorecard article noted that the American Rescue Plan 2021, with $12.4 billion in ESSER grants to Texas for reopening schools, requires a minimum of 20 percent spent on social and emotional learning that includes critical race theory.
Solutions to stop CRT in schools that are touted widely by the media, and even think tanks, are state bans and flipping school boards. Let’s look at the facts.
State bans are being ignored. Emboldened teachers are declaring their First Amendment right to teach whatever they want without parents’ knowledge. Some states have penalties for violations of their bans, while others, like Texas, have no enforcement mechanism. The Texas ban includes only social studies classes.
Flipping school boards is also futile because local trustees have limited authority to make substantive changes.
In the end, critical race theory will most likely follow a path similar to Common Core.
The Texas Common Core ban also had no enforcement mechanism. Subsequently, the national standards slipped in the back door in both the state’s curriculum standards and local schools.
Despite a public firestorm when academic performance spiraled downward with Common Core, the curriculum standards were not abolished but codified at the federal level in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Although touted as a return of educational control to the states, ESSA actually cemented federal control or influence.
Not only did ESSA codify Common Core, it changed the primary purpose of education from academic to social and emotional learning (SEL), a progressive method to change value systems including socialism, population control, radical environmentalism, LBGTQ+, social justice, moral relativism, and Marxist ideology.
SEL goes back to the early 20th century when psychologists were tinkering around with children’s minds, trying to figure out how to condition them for specific behaviors like animals.
SEL was key in Marc Tucker’s plan to centralize education and change it from academic learning to workforce training for a nationally managed economy. His plan in the 1992 infamous “Dear Hillary” letter was implemented by Goals 2000, School-to-Work Act, and Workforce Investment Act. After decades of this socialist-style education, the American workforce has gone from being the best educated in the industrialized world to the worst.
SEL first gained a foothold in federal law in the 1990s with Goals 2000. States had to adopt the statute’s goals to get Elementary and Secondary Education Act funding. With ESEA’s reauthorization came the federal mandate for state curriculum standards and tests. More federal control came with No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, and Every Student Succeeds Act. SEL was a key element in all of these.
State pre-K standards are frequently aligned to Head Start and the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s “Practices” that use CRT terminology.
The National Assessment of Education Progress now assesses for social and emotional characteristics in violation of federal law and the Fourth Amendment.
With the ESSA mandate of SEL in schools, this is a convenient vehicle for implementing CRT. All SEL programs include sexuality, gender, race, racism, class, and the nuclear family.
ARP implements SEL and critical race theory in public schools. The Biden administration’s handbook for implementation suggests the promotion of discussions about “race and social emotional learning” (p.9). The handbook links to the Abolitionist Teaching Network’s guide that promotes “free, antiracist therapy for White educators.”
Wendy Turner, an NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow, maintains that “SEL is the foundation, the heartbeat of the classroom.” Then is CRT also the “foundation, the heartbeat of the classroom”?
The website of CASEL, a leading SEL provider, offers extensive programs for critical race theory that create new profit centers for vendors and investors and new staffing positions at the district level.
Opting one’s child out of SEL assignments sounds simple but is virtually impossible because of entrenchment at the federal level. The USDE’s handbook states that SEL is not only taught explicitly, but integrated broadly within the learning process (p. 11).
Conservatives claim to want limited government and personal freedom, yet they call for more laws and more government control. They file lawsuits only to find that many judges are progressives. The real power for winning this war lies with the grassroots forming local groups to hold school boards and schools accountable.
However, with billions of dollars at stake with SEL/CRT programs, big business is not about to be pushed away by parents from the public education cash cow.
An easier, much less expensive, and far more effective solution for an ideology-free academic education is free market education. There is a rapidly growing movement of parents leaving public schools for the type of education so successful for 250 years that America once was the most literate nation on earth.
School choice was one of the Texas Republican legislative priorities for the 2021 legislative session, yet, like others, it went nowhere. Now it seems the grassroots are moving ahead with their own education choices.
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