With all the talk of critical race theory lately, many may not know what it is, where it comes from, or how it can affect education. More and more Texans are beginning to ask why CRT is being incorporated into the public school curriculum and what they can do to stop it. In a new series, Texas Scorecard will delve into the meaning of critical race theory, where it is being used, and how parents are voicing their opinions on the issue. 

In the late 1980s, legal scholars and activists formulated critical race theory. 

Mari Matsuda, co-founder of the CRT movement, defined critical race theory as “the work of progressive legal scholars of color who are attempting to develop a jurisprudence that accounts for the role of racism in American law and that work toward the elimination of racism as part of a larger goal of eliminating all forms of subordination.”

In essence, the CRT movement was created to combat and eliminate perceived racism in all laws. 

Along with this new look at race came the idea that there was “color blindness,” a new form of racism. CRT scholars Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Crenshaw believe that ignoring racial differences will actually perpetuate a continuation of the status quo to all the “deeply institutionalized injustices to racial minorities.”   

Gone are the days of Martin Luther King Jr.’s notion of judging people solely by the content of their character.  

Over the last few years, CRT has made its way into public school systems across the country, using terms like “anti-racism,” “equity,” “diversity,” and “inclusion.”

Psychology author Kendra Cherry defines anti-racism as “a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. The goal of anti-racism is to challenge racism and actively change the policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions.” 

“Anti-racism is rooted in action,” says Cherry.  

According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, equity is defined as “the state, quality or ideal of being just, impartial and fair.”

The concept of equity is synonymous with fairness and justice. It is helpful to think of equity as not simply a desired state of affairs or a lofty value. To be achieved and sustained, equity needs to be thought of as a structural and systemic concept.

Equity and equality are not considered the same. Equality would mean that everyone is treated the same; equity means those less fortunate would get more. 

Inclusion is typically used in conjunction with diversity, and the term got its start in the field of special education. According to definitions from researchers X. Bui, Carol Quirk, and Michele Valenti, “inclusion is when all students, regardless of any challenges they may have, are placed in age-appropriate general education classes that are in their own neighborhood schools to receive high-quality instruction, interventions, and supports that enable them to meet success in the core curriculum”. 

The five tenets of critical race theory can be found in almost every school in Texas, and teachers are now being required to attend training in these tenets of CRT.

In the next installment of this series, Texas Scorecard will look at the different ways critical race theory is being utilized in schools across the state.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.