The American public’s fascination with the good, old Critical Race Theory (CRT), an imaginary problem according to hard-left partisans or an existential crisis weakening the liberal experiment according to the rest, is not fading away. Nina Jankowicz, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Disinformation Governance Board, dismissed the opposition to CRT as a political campaign waged by “Republicans and other disinformers.” Her unwillingness to honestly address one of the most important sociocultural issues of our times is a reflection of Washington elites’ willful disconnect from ground realities of rampant ideological indoctrination in K-12. Parents and concerned citizens are not easily fooled as they are more informed about CRT’s pervasive invasion.
Parents may not intuitively link the discovery of race-based curricula or equity-themed programs to CRT. But most such issues can be traced back to common, dogmatic influences from CRT, a worldview that simplifies our complex human enterprise through the prism of race and reduces social relationship to power struggles. In California, CRT-inspired thought experiments are salient in terms of state-level educational initiatives and school-district-level activities. Here, I list three main topics of interest, with real-life examples and suggested actions for multiple stakeholders.
Infusing the CRT Pedagogy into Core Disciplines
A “clever” argument from progressive ideologues and “useful idiots” is that K-12 classrooms can’t possibly teach a law school concept, namely CRT. Well, where I came from, middle schoolers and high schoolers had become proficient Red Guards during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, without reading a single word of The Communist Manifesto. By the same token, CRT’s broad reach cannot be assessed through a purely academic lens, but by its far-reaching applications in real life. One particular aspect of concern is a growing tendency of the doctrine being grafted and incorporated in English, math, science, social studies and history.
Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) in Los Angeles came to mind as a prime example. In 2020, the school district selected TCI as a vendor to provide social studies and science instructional materials – TCL is a national curriculum developer that embeds “culturally responsive pedagogy” and the lens of minority oppression in its educational materials. In 2021, the school district gave a presentation on school curricula to parents, in which the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council recommended integrating anti-bias and Learning for Justice to “complement curricula in History-Social Science, English Language Arts and across all content areas and disciplines.” It is important to note that Learning for Justice, formerly called “Teaching for Tolerance,” is an organization dedicated to advancing the cause of racial justice, dismantling white supremacy, and promoting intersectional social movements, which are all main tenets of CRT.
Through a series of public records requests launched by local whistleblowers, we found out that GUSD school district administrators have communicated among themselves an intent to embrace CRT. In an email dated May 26, 2021, Craig Lewis, RUSD’s officer for Restorative Practices & Positive Behavior Intervention and Support argues that CRT “deeply imbues the History-Social Science Framework” and that “Marxist theory… and socialism represent an informed and thoughtful reaction and choice to Systemic Inequality.” In another, Mr. Lewis contends “socialist practices are what makes America great.”
The hijacking of educational subject areas by the orthodoxy of political correctness and racial animus is not limited to one school district. In response to a protest against a $100 million local funding formula with “anti-racism” and “ethnic studies for all” as major themes, San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera admitted that teaching ethnic studies is not just about a curriculum, but also a principle that needs to be infused into math, science, English and social studies. Conveniently, the school district defines ethnic studies as “the study of perspectives, knowledge, experiences, and contributions of people of color with a central focus on anti-racism.”
Parents and students must urge for greater academic transparency and fiscal accountability so that experimental instructional materials undergo public scrutiny and scientific examination. Residents and taxpayers have a stake in demanding that their school districts sufficiently educate the students in all core disciplines and not dilute education with the inculcation of controversial political ideas such as racial justice, restorative justice or anti-racism. Expose ideologues who insist that socialism and gender ideology are appropriate for K-12 classrooms. Disrupt going woke through public pressure campaigns.
Teaching math for equity and racial justice
California is a trailblazer for woke math, through the state Department of Education’s promotion of a new mathematics framework that touts equity, anti-racism, and decentering whiteness as goals. Currently in its second edition, the California Mathematics Framework (CMF) is unapologetically rooted in CRT. First, the framework drafters attack merit by proposing eliminating gifted programs and advanced tracking. They do so with a justification that “[s]tudents of color, recent immigrants, and those from low-income families have been routinely ‘tracked down’ into less challenging, rote-oriented coursework that is also generally less well-taught.” Second, the drafters want to conduct an ideological experiment on California students by reimagining math to “dismantle inequities” and promote “sociopolitical consciousness.” Notably, five out of 14 chapters in the new draft are centered around the theme of “equity.”
The State Board of Education is expected to finalize and approve the new math framework in this July, after which “equity math” will become both an authoritative guidance for California’s 1,000+ school districts and a national blueprint. This initiative has met fierce resistance from across the political aisle and at different levels. Over 1,700 academics, STEM professionals and experts signed a public statement opposing the CMF’s anti-merit nature. Williamson M. Evers and Ze’ev Wurman of the Independent Institute led an open letter against the CMF, arguing that the new framework “promotes fringe teaching methods such as ‘trauma-informed pedagogy’,” and “encourages focusing on ‘contributions that historically marginalized people have made to mathematics’ rather than on those contributions themselves which have been essential to the academic discipline of mathematics.” The letter has been signed by 1,243 professors, engineers and scientists. At the community level, my research has identified a group of parents who are self-described Democrats or liberals who make up the grassroots resistance against the CMF.
California parents and community members must keep the pressure on. You can utilize this letter-sending portal to contact state education leaders with your concerns regarding the CMF. It is also time to start organizing in your school districts and counties by proactively monitoring upcoming changes to math standards and engaging local decision makers with demands for apolitical, rigorous math coursework. Each school district has the autonomy and authority to adopt and enact its own curriculum.
Selling Liberated Ethnic Studies
Last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to mandate ethnic studies for all its public high schools, with the passage of AB101. The state-endorsed model framework, approved by the State Board of Education on March 18, 2022 in spite of over 7,000 opposing public comments, was highly contentious and laden with ideological jargon such as “four ‘I’s of oppression,” “critical consciousness,” “intersectionality,” “double helix,” and “radical healing.” The finalized framework was so problematic that my group sued the state contesting the constitutionality of two particular affirmations that chant repetitively to Aztec, Mayan and African deities. The State Department of Education settled with us in a favorable agreement in which the contested chants were removed from the state curriculum. But as if the state model is not bad enough, a group of teacher-activists are aggressively marketing a more radical version of ethnic studies, called the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (LESMC) in multiple school districts.
Closely resembling the state-rejected first model, LESMC is an institutionalized form of ethnic studies, pushed by a for-profit consulting group called “the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute” (LESMCI, formerly known as the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition). LESMCI provides consulting services targeting districts that are looking for: 1. Anti-racist culturally responsive training; 2. District advertisement and implementation of ethnic studies; 3. ethnic studies professional development. The coalition is promoting the previously rejected 1st draft of Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum by lobbying individual school boards to adopt resolutions at the request of its affiliated group “Save CA Ethnic Studies.” Both LESMCI/LESMCC and Save CA Ethnic Studies are also affiliated with “Ethnic Studies Now Coalition (ESNA),” an activist group backed by a fringe political organization called Union del Barrio. Their joint mission is to brand and promote ethnic studies as “a form of liberation” and a pedagogy of “transformational resistance” throughout California.
By most measures, LESMC has been more successful than the state model in securing the education market. Even before AB101 was signed into law, LESMC had been endorsed by over 20 school districts in California, including Hayward Unified School District which approved an ethnic studies framework incorporating both CRT and LESM. Salinas Union High School signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a LESMC consultant to develop professional development service at $1,500 an hour. This January, Castro Valley Unified School District Board voted for a $150,000 contract for the school district to fully engage with CRT through LESMC. The liberated version was so popular that even the University of California Board of Regents had considered incorporating its radical elements into a proposed A-G admissions requirement.
Not only does teaching ethnic studies through critical pedagogy or CRT betray the original purpose of ethnic studies to prepare students to “be global citizens with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures,” it is but also contrary to AB101’s stated guardrails against bias, bigotry and discrimination. Last but not least, the rolling out of LESMC in individual school districts also means that both the State Legislature and Governor Newsom who promised that the state-rejected first version would “never see the light of day” were lying to the public.
Citizens and parents should continue to monitor the implementation of ethnic studies at the local level and urge their school boards to strictly observe AB101’s guardrails and district policies on controversial issues. At the same time, legal advocates must pursue egregious cases of disparate treatment on the basis of race as a result of instituting liberated ethnic studies. The law is the law and it is on our side.
Again, many roads lead to CRT indoctrination and Californians must beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.