Administrator says 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory isn’t in curriculum
By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Oxford Community Schools does not use “critical race theory” or The New York Times’ 1619 Project in its curriculum, said Ken Weaver, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for the district.
A Michigan Senate bill that was introduced in May, seeks to ban both topics from public K-12 schools. Districts that are in violation would lose five percent of their state funding.
“Since we do not teach either topic, the passing of the bill into law would not impact Oxford Community Schools directly, but it might make teachers and staff reluctant to address the important topic of diversity, equity and inclusion with our students,” Weaver said.
The Bill defines critical race theory as “anti-American and racist theories, reading guides, lesson plans, activities, guided discussions, and other resources that promote that the United States is a fundamentally racist nation, that the United States Constitution is a fundamentally racist document, and that certain races are fundamentally oppressive or oppressed.”
The broad definition used in these types of bills makes it difficult to know what counts as critical race theory, Weaver said, and that might have a chilling effect. “The topic of diversity, equity and inclusion is an important topic that is very complex without the added burden that the bill would place on educators. If the bill became a law, conversations or discussions centered on diversity, equity and inclusion might be stifled, as educators may be reluctant to address this topic for fear of repercussions that are typically placed within the law.”
Still, Weaver believes the schools can teach American history in a balanced way. “I am confident that we can continue to teach our students to appreciate and love their country while recognizing its faults. We are not a perfect nation but a nation with a constitution that helps us to work towards being a better people and nation. At Oxford Community Schools, we are more concerned about the stifling of the free exchange of ideas within our classrooms, which means all perspectives: right, left, moderate, liberal, conservative, etc. than we are concerned with teaching a particular viewpoint.
“In the end, Oxford Community Schools will focus on making sure we educate and take care of all of our students and their needs. It is important for us to continue to do what is right for all students and our community. This approach definitely includes the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The bill was introduced by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton, 22nd District), chair of the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee.
“Critical race theory is an invention of the extremist political left that has manipulated academia for decades and is now targeting private businesses, public institutions and, sadly, our K-12 classrooms, where it is indoctrinating young minds with anti-American falsehoods,” Theis said in a press release. “Its ‘woke’ proponents reject our country’s true history and our founding principles, in favor of an identity-based cultural Marxist ideology that seeks nothing more than victimization, envy, division, discrimination, and ultimately the destruction of our country and way of life. This radical world view has no place in public education and my bill will make sure it never will.
“We should not ignore the past sins of our nation, especially things as abhorrent as slavery and Jim Crow, nor should we allow the history we teach our children to be distorted and politicized by an ideological and historically inaccurate agenda.
“Instead of forcing students to accept a divisive, identity-based ideology, Michigan’s schools should foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of thought, inquiry and instruction, and freedom of speech and association. Our schools should be teaching our students the actual history in the context of the time, encourage them to love their country’s unique place in history creating the path for freedom and equality as never before contemplated – while recognizing the flawed implementation. Our children should be taught to defend our founding principles, and to treat each other equally with dignity and respect.”
The Senate bill mischaracterizes critical race theory, according to Dorinda Carter Andrews, professor and chairperson of the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University’s College of Education.
“CRT dismisses the idea that racism stems from acts of individuals but rather rooted in a system of oppression based on socially constructed racial hierarchy where white people reap material benefits over people of color resulting from misuse of power,” Andrews wrote in an Ask the Expert column on MSU Today.
“Teaching young people about race and racism is not synonymous with teaching them critical race theory. Critical race theory is not an ideology or a political orientation that assumes white people are bad; it assumes white supremacy is bad in all of its forms. It’s a practice or approach that provides language and a lens for examining racism at institutional and structural levels. Underlying this is the premise that racism is endemic to American society and that white supremacist ideals and practices should be dismantled.”
Senate Bill 460 was referred to the committee on education and career readiness. No date has been set for a hearing.