No kidding, last night Wayne council chambers were packed with people who, despite Superintendent Toback’s letter to the public, say that Wayne schools are creating their curriculum using CRT (Critical Race Theory not cathode ray tube.) Yes, the superintendent has made it clear that CRT is not well defined and that the school system’s only link to CRT is the use of terms like diversity and inclusion. The entire curriculum is online for anyone to see; and not one angry resident gave a single example from the curriculum or the classroom. BUT THEY KNOW ITS TRUE!!!
How? Code words! Yes, one resident said, “Diversity is code for critical race theory.” Next thing you know somebody is going to say, “Equality is code for the communist manifesto.” I do not mean to trivialize people’s concerns. Person after person got up and said race should not be either the first or the central thing that we think about when we look at our fellow human beings. I could not agree more. Person after person got up and said teachers should not be telling white children that they are oppressors. Of course not. But I have to say again, there is no evidence that this is going on here in Wayne or across the country.
What is this CRT anyway? As one Board of Ed member explained, CRT was first articulated by a few faculty members of Harvard Law School almost 50 years ago as a framework to look at our legal system. It has not been widely adopted although a few law schools offer courses in it. Google searches will reveal that a few academics have tried to broaden CRT as a framework to examine society beyond the justice system – an effort that has not gained much traction. The longest list of CRT scholars I could find did not even make it to 30 names.
So, how has this tiny academic theory become a major topic in mainstream news and become a major worry for so many in our lovely community? Why were so many willing to interrupt speakers at last night’s meeting with nasty comments? How in the world can people believe that Wayne schools, among the best in the state, have suddenly been taken over by a CRT conspiracy to declare white students oppressors without students and their teachers making this known?
Social media is one explanation. Start a rumor and it picks up steam. The more negative the rumor, the more likely it is to become amplified. But there is another, more disturbing element at work. Some Republicans have decided that it is time to politicize education. Last night the founder of one organization spoke about taking back school boards all over New Jersey. Wayne’s Board of Education is nonpartisan; and it should stay that way. Bigotry is not a partisan issue, although some elements of both parties try to make it one. That is what is happening here.
Virtually everyone who spoke last night agrees with Dr. King that we should be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. I am confident that the Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Education as well as Wayne’s teachers and students will ensure that teaching to the contrary will not happen. I humbly suggest to those who say it is happening that they look for evidence instead of spreading accusations. There is nothing divisive about talk of inclusion and diversity. We are the most diverse nation on earth and evolving to become more and more inclusive. What is divisive are suggestions that we cannot talk about this in the schools as we look at history and literature.