Read here about the current Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District battle over Critical Race Theory taking place right now. I appreciate most in this piece Dr. Theresa Montaño's comments:
Theresa Montaño, a professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Cal State Northridge who helped craft an early draft of the state’s ethnic studies curriculum, was not surprised to hear that officials couldn’t settle on a definition of critical race theory. School boards looking to ban the concept are often “responding to a body politic that’s attacking critical race theory, but they have no knowledge of what it is,” she said. “Bans have become a means to “attack some of the civil rights gains like ethnic studies, like anti-racist education.”
“You have to look at the underlying messaging and underlying concepts that [these boards] are really trying to negotiate,” Montaño said.
The underlying message is let's NOT talk about race despite the fact that one can't teach history or Ethnic Studies without addressing race. A constructive conversation that they don't want to have is how best to teach these truths.
Clearly, Ethnic Studies teachers in Ethnic Studies classrooms are among those best equipped to do so. In my many years of teaching Mexican American Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and Critical Race Theory, the overwhelming response is "Why didn't I learn this earlier?" "Why do I have to wait 'til college to learn this?" I have heard high school students who have taken Ethnic Studies in high school ask the exact same thing.
Despite themselves obviously never having taken an Ethnic Studies course, these folks don't want to have a constructive conversation. And they're deaf to critical comments like those expressed about being denied the opportunity to learn the truths of American history. It's particularly troubling to hear educated people saying that they do not want to learn or be educated on such matters.
They seek instead to preempt vital conversations that will actually clear the air by naming the elephant in the living room that the recent racial justice movement laid bare. Beyond the importance of naming the elephant, courses like these equip all our youth with the language, concepts, and frameworks that they need to have if they are to navigate well life's complexities that inescapably attach to the viability of a multiethnic, multiracial democracy.
As I have noted throughout this blog [search "Ethnic Studies"], ample evidence further supports the positive benefits of Ethnic Studies to all the outcomes we say we care about in education, namely, grades, attendance, high school completion, and the decision to go to college.
How does this happen? Information fosters both awareness and insight. Awareness and insight reach beyond what we already know so that we might reach new horizons intellectually and spiritually—and in so doing, becoming a better, more self-aware, and more compassionate human being.
Shouldn't we all want that?
I know that I do. There are no shortcuts here. Under any name, we should collectively espouse a curriculum that helps our youth to survive and thrive. Thanks to Jorge Haynes for sharing this piece with me.
By Hayley Smith | L.A. Times | November 24, 2021
Inside a wood-clad meeting room in Orange County, five school board members sat before a sign-waving, opinionated crowd. For more than three hours, the trustees listened, debated and asked questions as they tried to decide whether to ban classroom teaching on a hard-to-define topic not taught in their schools: critical race theory.
The board members of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District had even turned to the trusted pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica, copying the entry for critical race theory into a public resolution that could become the legal policy of the district.
“I don’t think that this definition is really good,” trustee Marilyn Anderson said after reading the dense entry. “I think it needs to be really specific. It needs to spell out the specific theories that we do not want taught in our district — like that the United States is fundamentally or systemically racist.”
At the end of a long night, the board postponed the vote. But what emerged during their session revealed far more than angst over a “yes” or “no” vote on whether to ban critical race theory. Their meeting offered an up-close look at how an advanced academic concept has been transformed into a politicized slogan framing uncomfortable discussions about how to teach race, racism and equity in schools — and how the quest to define it inside a suburban school board meeting can be a minefield.
Critical race theory is a university- level academic lens for examining how racial inequality and racism are historically embedded in legal systems, policies and institutions in America and is not generally taught in K-12 schools. Yet Republicans have seized on it as a wedge issue painting white people as racist oppressors and people of color as the oppressed. Democrats largely see the conservative drive against critical race theory as racist dog-whistle politics that polarizes broader discussions about reckoning with America’s past.
Against this backdrop, school board members and parents in suburban Placentia-Yorba Linda are trying to figure it all out for their kids.
Although ultimately designed to ban critical race theory, the district’s 14-point resolution was touted as a way to foster a “safe and respectful environment for students.” It said the district “stands by the commitment to teach a complete and accurate account of history while also supporting the cultural integrity of students.”