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What’s wrong with critical race theory and its cousins

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In the past weeks, there has been a lot of controversy over conservative legislatures banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) and associated “woke” ideologies in K-12 schools. I’ve historically been critical of conservative culture wars. But I’ve also become concerned about misleading positions from the left defending CRT from criticism.

First, I feel there’s good reason to fear the new trend in education, however well-intentioned, may cause real harm. And second, I worry that the left has engaged in misleading discourse as part of this debate.

Part of the difficulty is grasping what we mean by CRT. There’s a decades-old academic component, which tends to center identity categories like race in human social exchanges, focusing on differences and how these create oppressor/oppressed classes. But there are also “pop” variants such as the antiracism of Ibram X. Kendi or “White Fragility” of Robin DiAngelo. Related concepts include exposing the construct of “whiteness,” which The Smithsonian infamously connected to characteristics such as “objective, rational thinking” and “hard work.” These various threads can make defining CRT difficult.

The evidence for employing CRT or adjacent concepts (henceforth called “CRTish” ideas),........

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