The CRT debate is turning parents into unlikely activists

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Critical Race Theory (CRT) is among the most divisive doctrines to ever threaten America’s schoolchildren, and it has sparked an unprecedented grassroots uprising of parents whose stories of ideological resistance have been detailed in our new book The Great Parent Revolt.

A multidisciplinary education philosophy that places race at the center of American history and culture, CRT is akin to racial Marxism — with whites viewed as oppressors and non-whites framed as the oppressed. The philosophy is at the center of high-profile intellectual efforts, such as The New York Times’ controversial 1619 Project, which claims that slavery and anti-black racism are at the core of the entire American experience.  In The Great Parent Revolt, we profile more than a dozen parents, students, and grassroots leaders who have courageously stood up and fought CRT.

One unlikely hero is Gabs Clark, a widowed low-income African-American mother of five children who had been living in a motel in Las Vegas.

Gabrielle Clark, who's son is mixed-race and fair-skinned, says he was forced to complete classroom assignments that categorized students by race, religion and sexual identity. He refused — and failed the course.
Gabrielle Clark, who’s son is mixed-race and fair-skinned, says he was forced to complete classroom assignments that categorized students by race, religion and sexual identity. He refused — and failed the course.

Her high school-aged son, William, was in a local charter school which required  a course called Sociology of Change.  According to Clark, the course included an assignment that asked students “to list your identities, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your religion.”

William, who is mixed race with blonde hair and blue eyes, refused to complete the assignment and was given a failing grade for the class, which kept him from graduating. According to Clark, because of his fair complexion, the class viewed her son  as “a dirty filthy oppressor. “ 

Clark filed a federal lawsuit charging the school with violating William’s First Amendment free speech rights, Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights, and federal anti-discrimination rights for compelling him to complete the race-based assignment.   The case has since been settled out of court.

Author and academic Lance Izumi describes CRT as one of the greatest threats to American education today. His new book describes how fed-up parents nationwide are demanding schools end their obsession with identity.
Author and academic Lance Izumi describes CRT as one of the greatest threats to American education today. His new book describes how fed-up parents nationwide are demanding schools end their obsession with identity.

Parents, says Clark, must realize that it is up to them to challenge CRT’s impact on education as she did. “Just because you have these rights,” she said, “if you don’t fight for them, then it’s like you ain’t got them.”

William’s case is no anomaly.  We interviewed a California student named Joshua, who asked that his real name not be divulged, who told us shocking stories of the CRT-type exercises he has endured in the classroom.

As a seventh grader he had to participate in a so-called “privilege walk.”  In this absurd exercise,  the entire class formed a line as their teacher read out characteristics of privilege, such as “I am white” or “I am male;” students had to take a step forward if a characteristic applied to them.

Joshua said it felt like a criminal lineup with students “singled out for privileges that they really can’t help or control.” 

Those personal details “shouldn’t be the concern of other students in my class and they aren’t entitled to that information,” said Joshua, who is white. He added that students and teachers are “scared about what they say for fear that they may mess up regarding one’s race or pronouns or identities.”

Author Nikole-Hannah Jones' controversial 1619 Project has been embraced by CRT-favoring educators for its focus slavery and anti-blackness.
Author Nikole-Hannah Jones’ controversial 1619 Project has been embraced by CRT-favoring educators for its focus slavery and anti-blackness.
AP

If that sounds like Communist China, then just ask immigrant mom Xi Van Fleet.

Now living in Virginia, Van Fleet grew up in China during Mao Zedong’s dreaded Cultural Revolution, which resulted in millions of deaths. She recalls Mao’s Red Guards, who were mostly middle and high school-aged students, identifying supposed anti-revolutionaries and parading them into town and organizing public trials.

“In China, we were taught at a very young age to just shut up,” says Van Fleet, who sees similarities between today’s hyper-racialized climate and Mao-era China..

Since its publication by The New York Times in 2019, the 1619 Project has both entered mainstream curricula — and been decried as inaccurate by myriad leading historians.
Since its publication by The New York Times in 2019, the 1619 Project has both entered mainstream curricula — and been decried as inaccurate by myriad leading historians.

“Everything that’s going on here happened in China during the Cultural Revolution,” she told us, which is why CRT  “should have no place in our schools.”

CRT, she says, will result in “the total control of the population by a few on top.”

This type of control is on display in Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School, the state’s top academic school, which is located in Fairfax County. 

Asra Nomani, an immigrant mom from India whose father marched with Mahatma Gandhi, has been a key parent leader protesting against the school’s change in admissions policy that de-emphasizes grades and test scores in favor of subjective factors like student “lived” experiences and limiting the number of students admitted from Asian-heavy schools. The aim, she says, “is to keep out too many Asian-American students.”

Nomani blames CRT, “which praises or blames members of a particular race solely because they happen to be that race.” Supporters of the new admissions policy derisively labeled Asian parents as White-adjacent, but Nomani said, “we were unapologetic.”

Virginia mom Asra Nomani, an immigrant from India, sued her son's school after she believed it it changed its admissions policy to penalize Asian students.
Virginia mom Asra Nomani, an immigrant from India, sued her son’s school after she believed it it changed its admissions policy to penalize Asian students.
San Francisco Chronicle via Gett

Nomani helped start a coalition of Thomas Jefferson parents that is suing to overturn the school’s admissions policy.  Their efforts also resulted in Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares investigating the school for possible violations of state law.

We also talked with Lia Rensin, a California mom who is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.   Rensin is fighting what she describes as a CRT-influenced version of ethnic studies, often dubbed “liberated ethnic studies,” which formed the basis of a draft ethnic studies model curriculum proposed by California education officials.  That draft also included anti-semitic elements such as a song lyric demonizing Jewish control of the media. 

A huge grassroots outcry from groups such as Rensin’s own Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies forced California officials to pull the extreme draft curriculum and approve a more moderate ethnic studies model curriculum.  

“The resistance,” Rensin says, “has to come from people who are aware of what’s going on, who push back and say…you’re not supposed to be indoctrinating my kids.”

The Pledge of Allegiance says that we are one nation indivisible. As I learned while researching our new book, parents such as these are true American heroes leading the fight to ensure we remain a land of liberty and justice for all.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute.  He is the co-author, along with Wenyuan Wu and McKenzie Richards, of the new PRI book The Great Parent Revolt: How Parents and Grassroots Leaders Are Fighting Critical Race Theory in America’s Schools.

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