Children spend most of their childhood in school. Most children who attend K-12 will be in school for 13 years (from the age of 5 – 18). That’s several hours a day, five days a week, for 9-10 months of every year. How do you want your child to spend their time in school? Who do you want influencing your child in school? What outcome do you want for your children from all of those years in school?

Public Education

The majority of parents in the United States choose to send their children to public schools. More than 50-million children attend public schools (including charter schools). Private schools have about six-million students. The majority of private schools are affiliated with a religious organization. More than two-million children were homeschooled prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic. That number is on the rise since 2020.

Who pays for public education? Taxpayers do. They pay for public schools through income tax, sales tax and property tax. Some taxes are local, some state, some federal. Taxpayers pay for public education even if they do not have children in public schools. Many parents have a vested interest in public education because their children are taught in public schools, but so do parents with children in private schools and who homeschool. Why? Because they also pay taxes that fund public schools. So do senior citizens and others who don’t have children living in their homes.

Public schools have a long history in the U.S. of being under local control. Puritans began the push for funding public education in New England in the 17th century, but many colonists preferred private schools affiliated with religious groups. Those colonists opposed the use of property taxes for funding public schools. However, over a period of many years, public funding of schools through property taxes eventually became the norm across the country. That did not bring private and religious education to an end, but it did impact the numbers of students in the different school types.

The challenges to publicly educating millions of children each year have always been difficult and at times daunting. However, many people say they cannot remember a time when public education has been as challenging as during the past few years. As we mentioned in the last part of our series:

Many parents say they were outraged when they found out what their children were learning in public schools. Parents mentioned, among other things the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), LBGTQ+ issues, Transgender ideology, Transgender boys allowed in girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms, Transgender boys competing in girls’ sports, sexually explicit curriculum and library books, restricting public access to public board meetings, limiting public comment, and a general lack of transparency by school board members, administrators and staff. That’s in addition to concerns about masking and vaccination mandates for children and teachers.

Many of these concerned parents believe there is a war on children. How should they respond? That’s the purpose of this series – to develop a reasoned (logical), informed (fact-based) and thoughtful (loving and kind) response to the war. So, let’s begin with CRT.

Thinking Critically About CRT

How should Christians respond to the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools (public and private)? We want to be reasoned and informed, so we should begin by having a thorough knowledge about CRT. One of the challenges is what sources we will use to learn about CRT. Some sources give a glowing view, while others give a gruesome view. I recommend reading all the views you can find and doing your best to get to the truth through the process of critical thinking.

Critical thinking is where we need to begin with most controversial subjects in life. It’s necessary for Christians and Christian apologists to think critically. Here’s what that means:

the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you … Cambridge Dictionary

disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence …

Thinking critically about CRT means we need to discipline ourselves not to allow emotions and confirmation bias to form our opinions about it. It’s not easy to do, but will help you to come to the best understanding of what CRT is and how to discuss it with others.

First, let’s define CRT by looking at a variety of sources.

critical race theory (CRT), intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. Critical race theorists are generally dedicated to applying their understanding of the institutional or structural nature of racism to the concrete (if distant) goal of eliminating all race-based and other unjust hierarchies.

Critical Race Theory (commonly abbreviated as CRT) refers to a way of analyzing systems, institutions, and power through a lens of race and racism. Central to Critical Race Theory is the idea that many institutions are built on and enforce systemic racism and oppression of people of color, that this racism and oppression have a long history in the US and the world (including slavery and its legacy), and that they are ongoing and driven by white supremacy.

Critical race theory was a movement that initially started at Harvard under Professor Derrick Bell in the 1980s. It evolved in reaction to critical legal studies, which came about in the 70s and dissected the idea that law was just and neutral … Although the scholarship differs in emphasis and discipline, it is united by an interest in understanding and rectifying the ways in which a regime of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color in America has had an impact on the relationship between social structure and professed ideals such as ‘the rule of law’ and ‘equal protection.’ Columbia University

Critical race theory was a response by legal scholars to the idea that the United States had become a color-blind society where racial inequality/discrimination was no longer in effect. While “race” as a notion is a social construction and not rooted in biology, it has had real, tangible effects on Black people and other people of color in terms of economic resources, educational and professional opportunities, and experiences with the legal system.

An outgrowth of the European Marxist school of critical theory, critical race theory is an academic movement which seeks to link racism, race, and power. Unlike the Civil Rights movement, which sought to work within the structures of American democracy, critical race theorists challenge the very foundations of the liberal order, such as rationalism, constitutional law, and legal reasoning. Critical race theorists argue that American social life, political structures, and economic systems are founded upon race, which (in their view) is a social construct.

Critical race theory is a modern approach to social change, developed from the broader critical theory, which developed out of Marxism. Critical race theory (CRT) approaches issues such as justice, racism, and inequality, with a specific intent of reforming or reshaping society. In practice, this is applied almost exclusively to the United States. Critical race theory is grounded in several key assumptions … In short, critical race theory presupposes that everything about American society is thoroughly racist, and minority groups will never be equal until American society is entirely reformed. This position is extremely controversial, even in secular circles. Critical race theory is often posed as a solution to white supremacy or white nationalism. Yet, in practice, it essentially does nothing other than inverting the oppressed and oppressor groups. From a political standpoint, critical race theory closely aligns with concepts such as communism, Marxism, nationalism, progressivism, intersectionality, and the modern version of social justice. Strictly speaking, the Bible neither commands nor forbids Christians regarding specific political parties or philosophies. However, believers are obligated to reject any aspect of a philosophy that conflicts with biblical ideals. Critical race theory is deeply rooted in worldviews that are entirely incompatible with the Bible.

The primary problem Christians have, and should have, with CRT is its connection to a worldview that is oppositional to the Christian worldview. Christians should always be on guard against any ideology “that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

History of CRT

Even as journalists “follow the money,” we also “follow the people.” That means knowing how a person or group of people we’re investigating connect to other people. The connection can be backward (historical) or to the side (cooperative). Let’s first look backward to get a sense of the history of CRT.

Critical race theory (CRT) was officially organized in 1989, at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory, though its intellectual origins go back much farther, to the 1960s and ’70s. Its immediate precursor was the critical legal studies (CLS) movement, which dedicated itself to examining how the law and legal institutions serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. (CLS, an offshoot of Marxist-oriented critical theory, may also be viewed as a radicalization of early 20th-century legal realism, a school of legal philosophy according to which judicial decision making, especially at the appellate level, is influenced as much by nonlegal—political or ideological—factors as by precedent and principles of legal reasoning.) Like CLS scholars, critical race theorists believed that political liberalism was incapable of adequately addressing fundamental problems of injustice in American society (notwithstanding legislation and court rulings advancing civil rights in the 1950s and ’60s), because its emphasis on the equitable treatment under the law of all races (“colour blindness”) rendered it capable of recognizing only the most overt and obvious racist practices, not those that were relatively indirect, subtle, or systemic. Liberalism was also faulted for mistakenly presupposing the apolitical nature of judicial decision making and for taking a self-consciously incremental or reformist approach that prolonged unjust social arrangements and afforded opportunities for retrenchment and backsliding through administrative delays and conservative legal challenges. Unlike most CLS scholars, however, critical race theorists did not wish to abandon the notions of law or legal rights altogether, because, in their experience, some laws and legal reforms had done much to help oppressed or exploited people.

Like many broad philosophical movements, critical theory can be difficult to define. It originated with the Frankfurt school in the 1930s but has evolved considerably since then. In all its iterations, it is principally concerned with hegemonic power and how that power is wielded by dominant groups. However, rather than tracing its historical development, I find it useful to characterize modern critical theory according to its affirmation of several fundamental premises: (1) Our identity as individuals is inseparable from our group identity and, in particular, whether we are members of a dominant, ‘oppressor’ group or a subordinate, ‘oppressed’ group. (2) Oppressor groups subjugate oppressed groups by dictating and maintaining society’s norms, traditions, expectations, and ideologies. (3) Our fundamental moral duty as human beings is to work for the liberation of oppressed groups. (4) Subjective, ‘lived experience’ is more important than objective evidence and reason in understanding oppression. (5) Privileged groups promote their own agenda under the guise of objectivity. (6) Individuals who are part of more than one oppressed group experience ‘intersectionality;’ their oppression is qualitatively distinct from the oppression of the separate groups to which they belong.

As we “follow the people,” we find that CRT connects historically to the Frankfurt School and CT (Critical Theory), and before that to Karl Marx and Marxism. We addressed concerns about Marxism in a previous part of our series.

This does not mean that Christians should ignore everything CRT proponents espouse. It’s important that Christians enter into discussions about CRT with an open mind. Remember, our search is for truth. We want our responses about CRT to be reasoned (logically valid), informed (fact-based), and thoughtful (loving and kind). We present these Christian resources with that in mind.

CRT Resources (Alphabetical)

Christianity and Critical Race Theory

Christianity or Critical Theory?

Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

Critical Race Theory Says Everything is Racist

Critical Race Theory: The Fault Lines of Social Justice

Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight It

Critical Theory & Christianity

Critical Theory and Christianity

Critical Theory, Social Justice, and Christianity: Are They Compatible?

How Critical Race Theory Has Infiltrated the Church

Is Critical Theory Compatible with Christianity?

Is Critical Race Theory compatible with Christianity? Neil Shenvi & Rasool Berry

Is Critical Theory Compatible with Christianity w/Monique Duson

Short Definition of Critical Race Theory

The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity

What is the critical race theory?

Why Christianity And Critical Race Theory Cannot Coexist

Next Time

How should Christian parents approach the subject of CRT when discussing their concerns with school administrators and boards? We’ll look at a variety of options in the next part of our series – The War On Children: A Christian Response.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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