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Critical Family History – a way around prohibitions on teaching


Education

Critical Family History – a way around prohibitions on teaching


By Christine Sleeter

15 May, 2021

I have watched in amazement as state legislatures have rushed to ban the teaching of critical race theory, or any curriculum that is based on it. To date, bills have been advanced in seven states banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools, and in one of these states—Idaho—the bill has been signed into law. While such bills have not been advanced in California, attacks on ethnic studies increasingly call out critical race theory. Critics claim that it is a divisive ideology that teaches hate, indoctrinates students with hate toward white people, and injects race into what should be a colorblind curriculum. I come to this controversy as a white scholar of race and curriculum, who has used critical race theory as an analytical tool in some of my academic work, and who has spent decades teaching predominantly white audiences about race and racism. I view attempts to censor critical race theory as an uninformed reaction to fear, a reaction that over the long run will be more harmful than helpful to the nation’s ability to grapple with its legacy of racism. Critics of critical race theory (as well as critics of various forms of anti-racist education ) often base their concern on the belief that talking about race is what produces racism, and that if we all try to be colorblind, racism will go away. This belief contradicts findings of the numerous research studies I have reviewed for the National Education Association on the impact of ethnic studies courses on students (including white students). Studies find fairly consistently that students (especially white students) begin with shallow conceptions of what racism is and it racism works, but by the end of a course that focuses on structural racism, have generally more positive racial attitudes than they began with. In other words, rather than fomenting racial hatred, coursework that examines structural racism generally…



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