Critical Race Theory

The Pennsylvania Anti-CRT Bill

Sloppy legislation will lead to unintended consequences that damage academic freedom and good education

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I have a short piece today in the Washington Post on the latest missteps in state legislative efforts to root out critical race theory. This bill is under consideration in Pennsylvania and is particularly problematic.

I have previously written about the trouble these bills pose for academic freedom when they are applied to universities. The Pennsylvania bill applies directly to the universities that receive state funding, and it adds new language that would prohibit instructors from assigning readings that espouse, prohibit universities from publishing writings that promote, and prohibit universities from providing a venue for speakers who advocate anything on a list of disfavored concepts. The language is sweeping and likely unconstitutional, and it would hamper educators (like me!) who have no sympathy with critical race theory but who do expect students to understand and grapple with difficult and even dangerous ideas.

From the new piece:

Consider, too, what it would mean to take seriously the idea that no assigned texts may "espouse" racist views. The bill could make it unlawful for instructors to assign their students to read certain writings of Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, to read works of literature by Mark Twain or William Faulkner. It would make it unlawful to read certain opinions by the Supreme Court (such as Dred Scott (1857), which held that Black Americans could not be full citizens) or laws passed by American legislatures (such as the post-Civil War "Black Codes" that spurred the adoption of the 14th Amendment). The bill would prohibit professors from assigning students to read the arguments made by politicians and polemicists across U.S. history defending slavery, advocating for Southern secession or encouraging racial segregation. It would shield students from confronting the historical reality of debates about race in America and, as a consequence, would impede their ability to understand the struggles that we have had and the progress that we have made.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. I eagerly await the cries of “cancel culture” from the usual suspects.

    1. How is this cancel culture? Nobody has lost their job or their chance at education.

      Are you seriously in favor of teaching racist stuff to minors?

      1. What is “racist stuff? Please be specific.

  2. Academia has woefully failed to police itself, and stuff like this is the inevitable consequence. Where were you thirty years ago when all of this garbage was starting to be imposed upon undergraduates?

    As to students being exposed to a variety of viewpoints, do you include The Turner Diaries on your required reading list? Why not???

    And as to unConstitutional, where does it say that taxpayers must fund racism? Teach CRT on your own dime…

    1. I told you this would happen when Sharis took over, but you didn’t listen.

  3. Perhaps you should contact the legislators and offer to help.

    Imagine that instead of CRT, it was teaching Nazism, or white supremacy, or male supremacy. I don’t mean the history of it, I mean lecturing about the evils of human rights, or the genetic superiority of whites, or the proper role of women is barefoot and pregnant.

    Do you think some people might have a problem with that? Do you think legislators and courts might jump in and do something?

    Now consider today’s schools, K-12 included, which teach kindergartners about the evils of being white and male, and colleges which indoctrinate students in Marxism, which murdered 10 times as many people last century as did the Nazis, and continues murdering people today.

    All this faux-outrage about banning racist indoctrination just leaves me cold.

    1. Find me one kindergarten that teaches about “the evils of being white and male.”
      All this anti-CRT stuff is political posturing to the base, 99% of which couldn’t provide a definition of CRT on an open book test.

      1. Gosh, I dunno, the news maybe, the reports on it, the parents protesting?

        If that wasn’t good enough for you, I’m not gonna waste time trying anything else.

        1. Your complete lack of willingness to engage is pretty telling.

        2. Hahaha. “Parents protesting?” Don’t you mean against the communist vaccines?

      2. Does 3rd grade — way back in 1968 — count?
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLAi78hluFc

      3. 99% of them have never read a book.

    2. How many people in America’s triumphant mainstream are in the market for pointers on tolerance and inclusiveness from Republicans and conservatives these days?

      If you make half-educated bigots, right-wingers chanting ‘Jews will not replace us,’ superstitious gay-bashers, White nationalists, and old-timey misogynists pillars of your electoral coalition, you lose the culture war and forfeit the opportunity to be taken seriously by the victors on the issue of bigotry.

  4. So, so many strawmen in that excerpt.

    1. I guess my question is: What is up with these school boards?!

      To me, all of this just reinforces the importance of those local elections.

  5. How about a prohibition on presenting or teaching as truth any “learning material that espouses, advocates or promotes a racist or sexist concept”?

    1. How would that work? If I were teaching a civics course and we discussed the debate over affirmative action and I had them read, say, Sowell saying it’s bad and MLK saying it’s good, since many here think affirmative action is racist would I have to give a ‘trigger’ or ‘truth’ warning to the MLK part saying ‘this is not true, but you should know it?’

      1. If they were covering the debate over Jim Crow and we quoted Justice Brown endorsing “separate but equal” and Justice Harlan saying that’s racist, would that be OK?

        1. Don’t answer a question with a question. If I’m unsure and you’re unsure what falls under this bill then Whittington’s point has been made.

        2. Also, IIRC Harlan didn’t argue the Court’s view was racist, he argued the law was color-blind. He actually backed white supremacy in the opinion, just not aided by the law: “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage, and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty.”

          1. Yes, it’s paradoxical to say whites will stay on top so long as they’re not racist. Harlan used to be a pro-Union slavery supporter, after all. But look how far he advanced!

          2. “He actually backed white supremacy in the opinion, just not aided by the law: “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power.”

            Are you sure that’s white supremacy? I mean, if you throw in punctuality and attention to detail, you’ve basically got full-blown CRT.

      2. How would that work? If I were teaching a civics course and we discussed the debate over affirmative action and I had them read, say, Sowell saying it’s bad and MLK saying it’s good, since many here think affirmative action is racist would I have to give a ‘trigger’ or ‘truth’ warning to the MLK part saying ‘this is not true, but you should know it?’

        A) “What these texts says is true.”
        B) “What these texts says is not true.”
        C) “Here are some texts making various assertions about a subject. Decide for yourself which (if any) of them are true/untrue.”

        It’s possible to present positions on controversial without asserting that they are either true or false.

        1. So you’re confident teachers who only do C but never A (in regard to ‘CRT’ texts) won’t fall under this law? Because I seriously doubt many teachers teach many lessons by starting ‘the following is true and you must believe it…”

          1. So you’re confident teachers who only do C but never A (in regard to ‘CRT’ texts) won’t fall under this law?

            Your straw man supply is inexhaustible. I responded to your question about how swood1000’s proposal would work, which was not the same as the legislation in question.

            1. What strawman, I’m using your categories dude!

              1. What strawman, I’m using your categories dude!

                And pretending that they were being applied to the PA legislation, when they clearly were not…you lying sack of shit.

                1. So, wait a minute, you’re entire point here is you’re focused on when I said ‘this law’ in our discussion of swood’s proposed version of the actual PA? Lol.

                  even if one embraces your substance-free pedantry it in no way alters the point.

        2. And if I’m an English teacher and I’m teaching a Faulkner novel and it can be taken as being racist in its message (such as the weird paternalistic stuff in Intruder in the Dust), do I need to say B or C to be safe? You’re essentially now in the area where regular ‘trigger’ or ‘truth’ warnings must be made throughout classes…

          1. And if I’m an English teacher and I’m teaching a Faulkner novel and it can be taken as being racist in its message (such as the weird paternalistic stuff in Intruder in the Dust), do I need to say B or C to be safe?

            If you’re “teaching a Faulkner novel” you’re teaching concepts of fiction literature, not whether or not the contents of such works of fiction are “true” or not.

            1. Do you not get that fiction novels often…espouse things? They’re not just mastubatory grammar exercises to most authors, y’know?

              1. You’re so far down your straw man misdirection rabbit hole you might never find your way to the surface again.

                1. Ah, now *here* comes the substance free posting!

                  1. You see, Faulkner was rather forthright that he wrote, say, Intruder in the Dust to say something about the Southern problem of Jim Crow as a Southern writers. He had a view about that he wanted to espouse (just as Tolstoy had a view he wanted to espouse about Slavo-philism in War and Peace, how Orwell had a view about the USSR, etc.,). So assigning these texts can most certainly (I’m ‘pretty sure!’) assigning texts that *espouse* a view (or, if you like, take their view as true.).

                    1. Can most certain be seen as assigning texts that…

            2. Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm espouse no political or philosophical truths, they just are the Hero’s Journey of a low level bureaucrat and some farm animals! Lol.

              1. You know, it’s quite possible to teach and test on 1984, without requiring that students affirmatively agree with the novel’s intended conclusions. The student should merely be able to identify what they are.

      3. No but if you tell, like, fourth graders that they bear the burden for slavery and should be ashamed of who they are then yeah, that’s a clear problem.

        Hell, it’s a problem if you did it to high schoolers.

        Not that you care.

        1. But so far there is no evidence of that happening, at least that I’ve seen. Just furious handwaiving from the right.

      4. Sowell saying it’s bad and MLK saying it’s good

        Come on, you know how this works. You say, “This is Sowell’s view” and “This is MLK’s view.” What you don’t say is, “This is the view you respond with when I ask for the truth.”

        1. Yeah that really isn’t that hard to figure out. If you can’t present opposing viewpoints neutrally – regardless of what you believe – then you’re a shitty teacher.

          It’s school, not an indoctrination camp.

  6. Consider, too, what it would mean to take seriously the idea that no assigned texts may “espouse” racist views. The bill could make it unlawful for instructors to assign their students to read certain writings of Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, to read works of literature by Mark Twain or William Faulkner. It would make it unlawful to read certain opinions by the Supreme Court (such as Dred Scott (1857), which held that Black Americans could not be full citizens) or laws passed by American legislatures (such as the post-Civil War “Black Codes” that spurred the adoption of the 14th Amendment).

    Asserting that a textbook containing the writings of some past figure(s) is equivalent to “espousing” the contents of those writings is either pants-on-head stupid or a display of transparently dishonest rhetoric…or possibly both. I recall reading in my high school textbooks about the 3rd Reich’s rationalizations for its attempts to wipe out Jews and other “undesirables”, but I’m pretty sure that those chapters weren’t “espousing” genocide.

    1. He said texts, not ‘textbooks,’ but nice eliding there.

      1. He said “assigned texts”, which commonly means textbooks. But even if one embraces your substance-free pedantry it in no way alters the point.

        1. Are you ‘pretty sure’ it commonly means textbooks? Because I know that actually lots of non-textbooks are used in classes. English classes don’t just use literature anthologies, they often require some to a lot of individual books, like say a book by Faulkner, and it would be hard to argue something like that can’t be read to be ‘espousing’ racist or sexist ideas.

          1. Note that “commonly” and “exclusively” mean different things.

            That said, I went back over that part of the legislation and realize that I misread it the first time and interpreted “learning material” in a too-narrow way. As such, my initial comment was in error and too hastily made. My apologies to the author.

            1. Looks like my ‘substance free pedantry’ actually did alter the point (and hence was neither substance free or pedantry btw) after all.

        2. It does not commonly mean textbooks, and even if it did, it would not mean it here, since the statute which you obviously never bothered to look at before commenting says, “require a student to read, view or listen to a book, article, video presentation, digital presentation or other learning material that espouses, advocates or promotes a racist or sexist concept.”

          Not a textbook. A book.

  7. I saw the title and assumed this was about an energy efficiency bill aimed at replacing old computer monitors and televisions.

    1. *golf clap*

    2. Significantly boost the power on a CRT and you have a ray gun.

      Just saying….

    3. They seem to have a grudge against users of retro technology.

  8. What are the prospects of this bill passing with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto?

  9. If people wanted to do something against ‘CRT’ why not instead mandate certain readings that oppose the things that CRT says that are found to be so triggering and then let the teacher decide on supplementary works? That seems better than prohibiting anything from being taught, kids will have to hear ‘the other side’ and can then make up their minds.

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty funny to contrast conservative’s reaction to CRT versus their vigorous defense of free speech when tech companies take down anti-vax nonsense.

      1. Well, they never meant the free speech stuff as anything other than a cudgel to be wielded against the left from which the idea came.

        1. By “they” do you mean the thousands of parents who are showing up to protest the mental abuse of their children? They’re just doing this for politics? Even the protesting black parents?

  10. The government does not need to be involved in education, period. Especially non-local government.

  11. “The Pennsylvania bill applies directly to the universities that receive state funding”

    Bad idea – keep it simple, ban racist indoctrination in elementary and secondary schools.

    If a state university professor wants to propagandize, (s)he would be clever enough to avoid explicitly saying “you must believe this.” (Well, most of them are clever enough) There are so many other ways to get one’s point across at that level.

    1. “to avoid explicitly saying “you must believe this.””

      WTF? Where did you go to high school at?

      1. WTF? Where did you go to high school at?

        “If a state university professor wants to propagandize, (s)he would be clever enough to avoid explicitly saying “you must believe this.””

        1. Lol, you didn’t get my comment, which was ‘where in the world did you go to high school where teachers started classes with “here is something you must believe!”

          You’re not exactly batting 1000 today Wuzzie.

          1. Lol, you didn’t get my comment, which was…

            …just another sad straw man.

            ‘where in the world did you go to high school where teachers started classes with “here is something you must believe!”

            Which was, of course, NOT your comment…you lying sack of shit.

            1. Another swing and a miss…If you say ‘they need a good spanking like in high school’ and someone replies ‘lol, where did you go high school’ you think that’s not saying ‘holy shit, did you really go to a high school that spanked people?’

    2. If a university professor wants to propagandize students who don’t want to be exposed to it can drop the class. Or drop/add to a different professor.

      Like you say, it’s the indoctrination of captive minors that’s the problem.

  12. I am inclined to agree with Prof W. Legislation attempting to prescribe or proscribe the content of university courses is like trying to herd fish with a spoon. Never gonna work.

    Instead, Republican led states with State universities that are leftist monocultures, should adopt the old tried and trusted mantra “personnel is policy” and use their legislative powers to make sure that all important State university appointments are :

    (a) made by the political branches
    (b) term limited, and recallable

    the content of the university courses can flow from there.

    1. How to make our University System (or any system) go from best in the world to one of the worst, let non-experts do the staffing!

      Good Morning Patronage!

      1. Actually, I think the universities have been accomplishing that transition just fine on their own, maybe the legislature would screw up the effort enough to slow things down.

      2. let non-experts do the staffing!

        Well that is the way that the Army Chief of Staff, the Treasury Secretary, the various federal District Attorneys, on for thousands more get appointed. Not to mention all federal judges.

        I appreciate that, compared to the head of the Department of English Literature at a small State university, who gets appointed to run the NSA is not a biggie, but we’ve struggled by for a couple of hundred years with appointment by amateurs.

  13. Just defund the entire thing. There is no way to legislate out of this problem. The thought reform camps are too far gone. Best you can do is let them die off, salt the fields, and maybe think about bringing them back around in a generation or two.

    1. I’ve long said that higher education will follow the railroad industry — and freight rail is now back, big time, with double stack.

  14. Does anyone actually use Cathode Ray Tubes anymore? I thought everyone had the digital flat panel thingies these days.

    What? Well yes, of course I remember compact discs. Why do you ask?

  15. Conservatives can rail and flail, mutter and sputter, whine and whimper about all of this damned progress . . . but they can’t stop it, and they will comply with the preferences of better Americans.

    Trying to own the libs, rather than to be a persuasive force in productive debates, will merely accelerate the pain to be sustained by clingers in the culture war.

    If Republicans and conservatives are trying to become even less relevant to the context of our leading teaching and research institutions, they have chosen a good path.

    1. It’s impossible to own the libs because they sway with the wind of ridiculosity.

      Likewise, if “leading and research instutions” are trying to become even less relevant to the context of reality, they too have chosen a good path.

    2. Rev, if this is so popular among the vast majority of better Americans, then why are advocates of teaching it being so coy and sophist? “It doesn’t really exist”. “That’s not what it says, but I’m not going to say what it says.” Why not be straightforward and honest?

      Because it’s deeply unpopular – the vast majority of Americans of all political opinions and all races are (unlike you) opposed to bigotry from any direction. That’s why advocates of teaching this stuff are trying to avoid the debate.

      1. Shorter bevis: “I am very simplistic, so I assume that if people tell me that something is complex and not easily reducible to a few buzzwords, they must be lying about it.”

        1. I’m not simplistic at all. Once again, you’ve got the opportunity to explain what the theory is, but you resort to insults instead. Just fucking be honest and tell us what the children would be taught.

          You can’t because you know it’s racist garbage and very unpopular to those how have been exposed to it.

          Why do you want to indoctrinate children so badly?

          1. “I’m not simplistic. I assume that anyone who thinks I’m a clown must want to teach CRT in schools, but I am not simplistic.”

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