The Importance of Critical Race Theory in K-12 Education

By Nasir Jean-Paul

As a college student, especially at Davidson College, I habitually engage in discourse on issues that affect our society, including but not limited to inequities, criminalization, and oppression. There are spaces both in and outside the classroom to engage in these conversations to learn more. Additionally, there are opportunities in nearby communities to become active in these issues. One prominent issue that comes up, again and again, is the disparities in the education system. Addressing educational disparities is crucial if we wish to see prosperity and advancement in our youth. While equity must exist inside schools for all students to have access to a good education, it is also necessary not to neglect the other problems of our education system.

Our current educational system for grades K-12 does not teach how our country has oppressed minority groups throughout American history. Incorporating Critical Race Theory (CRT) into our educational system will teach students the historical laws and policies that disproportionately affect marginalized groups today. While there is opposition to the teaching of CRT in schools, I believe it would be useful to teach students nationwide how race has influenced our country's legal systems and still affects non-white people today. Now, the question to ask is what exactly is critical race theory. Here below lies how academic experts define and express the significance of Critical Race Theory:

However, there's controversy about the implementation of CRT inside our nation's classrooms. For example, in my home state, Florida, Governor DeSantis, who has banned CRT inside Florida classrooms, gives his reasoning for his decision:

Governor DeSantis's reason is justifiable if that was Critical Race Theory's intention. There has been a miscommunication about what CRT means and how that would look in the classrooms. As a result, it's got parents and school boards across the nation opposing its teaching in classrooms. One of the biggest fears regarding Critical race Theory is that it will label white students as oppressors; the fear is that Critical Race Theory will impose guilt on white students and make them feel horrible for their ancestors' actions. However, as Professor Dorinda Carter Andrews, professor at Michigan State University, states:

At colleges and universities, discussion on these issues doesn't project the oppressor identity on white people. These are intellectual conversations meant to invoke solutions to the problems that minority groups face in our nation. It is not a debate of whether white people are evil or not. That would be a bad case to make as it is easily disputable. People of all colors, shapes, and forms commit evil deeds. It is not exclusive to only white people. However, the case that our nation's systems and policies oppressed people based on their race and cultural background is clear-cut. If parents or even school board members sat in one class session discussing these issues, they'd realize that their worries were justifiable but that they shouldn't worry. If anything, these discussions will allow for inclusion and diversity in our nation to prosper because they will permit us to rebuild bridges that we burned so so long ago or build bridges that we never had in the first place. Therefore, that leads me to believe that Critical Race Theory is not the issue, but as some academic experts like Professor Kimberle Crenshaw of Columbia Law School and Law at UCLA voices:

If governmental bodies are against Critical Race Theory because it threatens the racist policies that still linger to this day, if the government ever dissolved them, we should be worried. Education on CRT will help push our nation in the right direction to becoming a more inclusive nation. While implementing CRT in schools might not be the best solution, it is a start. We are teaching our nation's future leaders that what our ancestors did in the past was terrible, but it can be changed if we step up to the pedestal to do some good. Our future kids will only know how to do good if we teach them. So for the betterment of our nation, to become a more inclusive and diverse nation that doesn't oppress people based on their race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexuality, and more, teach Critical Race Theory in schools!

Nasir is a sophomore and intended Sociology major at Davidson College.