Images provided by Anna Moneymaker and Bizuayehu Tesfaye from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Top: Glenn Youngkin
Critical race theory (CRT) has been at the center of America’s debate on education policy in recent years, especially with the rise in recent social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter. CRT has brought hoards of angry parents into school board meetings across the country, and influences elections everywhere. Furthermore, with race issues recently gaining more attention in Fremont and at Washington High School, such as the debate over the Native Sons of the Golden West’s plaque, it’s important to research the topic of CRT.
Before delving into the impact CRT has had on America and FUSD, it’s important to give a definition. After the civil rights movement in the 1960s, social programs intended to boost the economic position of minorities began to be implemented. The problem is that even today, most minority groups still are in a lower economic position than white Americans. CRT seeks to answer the question of why this is, and it does so by claiming that America’s systems are inherently racist and flawed.
Critical race theory’s view in the public has evolved since the 1970s. Originally, it was a little known subject taught and known of only in graduate studies, but, according to AP U.S. History teacher Mr. Stephenson at Washington, it has since been politicized for the advantage of the Republican Party. According to him, CRT has been used by some conservative candidates as a wedge issue to bring conservative voters, especially college educated women, back to the Republican camp after they largely abandoned the head of the ticket in 2020. It might also be a “dog whistle” that could galvanize the conservative base. “Perhaps CRT is code for ‘we can’t allow this to happen in our schools and we have to fight against it,’” Mr. Stephenson claimed. “A conservative candidate in Virginia was able to use CRT to energize and support his candidacy by having them think that CRT is an intrusion upon their schools that is harming their children. It is my understanding that this idea isn’t true as CRT is only taught at graduate level studies, and CRT isn’t included in any state public education curriculum.” Nonetheless, the political ramifications of CRT have affected and will continue to affect American politics, potentially swinging the balance of power in state elections and Congress.
For instance, in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election that resulted in the victory of Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, CRT played the role of boosting conservative voters’ excitement for the election. Furthermore, this election had been thought of as a test of Democrats’ strength going into the 2022 midterm elections, showing that CRT has a large impact on American politics and thus our lives. Mr. Macleod, the AP US Government & Politics teacher at Washington, believes CRT is having a tangible effect on elections today, advantaging conservative candidates. “It sounds like it affected the Virginia Governor’s race quite a bit,” he said. “You have a state that’s more of a blue state where they elected a Republican Governor, a Republican Lieutenant Governor, and Republicans to other statewide offices as well.” CRT has evidently become an important issue to parents in the Midwest and South, but what’s its effect been on FUSD?
In recent years as the debate on how to educate America’s students has evolved to include discussions regarding race, school board meetings have become a popular place for frustrated parents to express their feelings. Parents have even gone so far as to stalk and harass school board members to get their point across. In Fremont, this hasn’t been the case though, as FUSD School Board Member Dianne Jones claims that although some parents have brought up concerns regarding CRT, they haven’t been hostile. “In FUSD, we have not seen many parents raising concerns about CRT,” she says. “We have had some, but they have been minimal and haven’t been hostile.” This shows that although concern over CRT is present in Fremont despite it’s progressive political leanings, parents are not being violent in their reactions like in other areas of the country. Students have even begun to get involved in the CRT debate. Senior Sunjay Muralitharan is concerned regarding how some proponents of CRT aren’t clear on a set definition for the subject. “The lack of unity on what critical race theory is in practice among critical race theorists should raise some alarm,” he says.
The CRT debate in the United States has had an effect on the outcome of elections and communities throughout the country, but it’s effect on Fremont has seemed to be more tame. The concern over CRT has brought Sacramento into the mix, as they have sought to answer the question of how schools should teach race. The California Assembly passed a bill making California the first state to mandate an Ethnic Studies class for high schoolers, beginning for the Class of 2030. No matter the decision of one state government, it is important that communities across the country evaluate how they are teaching the history of race, as how we educate our youth can have profound impacts on the future equitable treatment of all people.