U.S. House Rep. Lauren Boebert has been staunchly against teaching critical race theory in schools, calling the academic concept a “lie” and “racist” on Twitter. But experts say the subjects are necessary to create inclusive classrooms.
On Twitter, Boebert, R-Colo., wrote that critical race theory should be banned “at every level of schooling.”
In a news release, the representative said the subject teaches “children to hate each other.” She did not respond to a request for comment.
“This radical critical race theory brings division, not unity, it advances hate, not love, and puts a person’s skin as more important than the content of their character,” Boebert said. “If we do not stop teaching critical race theory, then in the words of Ronald Reagan, ‘we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men and women were free.’”
Critical race theory is a 40-plus-year concept that examines social, legal and economic structures and how those systems relate to race and racism, said Jenni Trujillo, dean of the School of Education at Fort Lewis College. Critical race theory, or CRT, began with civil rights scholars and activists and seeks to highlight all voices in history, not just white perspectives.
“There’s nothing revisionist when talking about critical race theory,” Trujillo told The Durango Herald. “It’s really just honoring the voices of all of America, recognizing that we have diverse perspectives because we have diverse people.”
When discussing CRT, it’s important to note “critical” doesn't mean “criticize,” Trujillo said. The concept does not encourage division, but rather inclusion. Inclusive teaching, in general, should be taught in schools, she said.
“America is diverse, and therefore diverse perspectives deserve to be shown and shared. And that makes you a critical thinker,” she said. “That’s how we grow as humans. And in a 21st-century learning capacity, that’s what we strive for.”
Inclusive teaching helps students become better critical thinkers, writers and encourages people to question assumptions and long-embedded biases, Trujillo said.
“The socio-political pieces of learning are very real because the classroom is a microcosm of society,” she said. “We are a replica of everything that we see around us in our environment, so we have to teach our kids, our youth, to be deep thinkers, in order to adapt in a diverse world.”
Keri Brandt Off, a sociology professor at FLC, said race shapes structures and interactions, and pushing against teaching CRT in schools silences answers to the human experience.
“I think the attack on it is just a fear of not wanting to look at the ways in which we’ve used ideology about race to shape human society,” she said. This includes COVID-19 spreading at higher rights among Black populations and medical racism in the United States, she said.
The conversation around the theory shouldn’t be binary, as a lie versus the truth, Off said. This shuts down the conversation, and “it's not very helpful to us as human beings to understand the complexity of our lives.”
In addition to CRT, the “1619 Project” by The New York Times is a contested topic in school lessons. The project, which is a long-form project that began in August 2019 about the 400th anniversary of the American slave trade, aims to place contributions of Black Americans at the forefront of discussions while also acknowledging the consequences of slavery in America.
Several states have put restrictions on how teachers can discuss race and other social issues in school, including in Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The Florida State Board of Education voted recently to ban lessons about CRT and the “1619 Project,” according to the Miami Herald.
Deborah Flora, founder and president of Parents United America and a radio show host in Denver, said school systems need to “get back to basics” and shouldn’t teach CRT and related topics. Parents United America is a nonprofit that aims to center parents as primary stakeholders in their children’s education.
Flora said she does not believe in an outright ban of teaching CRT, but “that schools have gotten way outside their parameters of what they have been chartered to do.”
“It’s time for schools to get back to their real job, which is education – academic education – not social and emotional conditioning or indoctrination,” she told the Herald.
In Durango School District 9-R, incoming Superintendent Karen Cheser was asked last month at a virtual community meet and greet what she thought about CRT and possible requirements around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Cheser said schools in the district should honor diversity and ensure the inclusion and equity of all students, but teachers will decide individually how to go about teaching social issues.
Trujillo said she agrees with that approach. Inclusive teaching starts at the individual level, she said, but still needs to be addressed in classrooms. A catch-all diversity training would be too light and uniform to make an impact, she said.
“Critical race theory really looks at storytelling, and an emphasis on the personal experience, because until we know who we are, that won’t translate in the classroom,” she said. “It’s important, at least, that it’s something that we begin addressing in an overt, instead of unconscious manner.”
Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.