Critical Race Theory like so much science, even social science, can be used for good or evil. Physics invented the atomic bomb which can destroy the world. Physics invented the nuclear power plant which can generate carbon free energy and help to save the environment. Chemistry and biology invented medicines that can save lives as well as bio toxic and chemical warfare which can take them. Somehow “CRT” is what people want to ban in part due to a total misunderstanding of what it is and what it is not. In the end I will show how I use these ideas to be sure I am being fair to the diverse groups of students I teach math and science to.
The Axioms of CRT can be used for good or evil. Let us at least all know them so we can have productive arguments on the same terms.
CRT can be used to analyze the inequalities and inequities in society (Lantz, PM).
Racial Inequality Exists: In CRT, the starting point is the actual existence of racial inequality.
Race is a social construction – the way that race is defined and experienced is the result of social and political thought and actions that change over time.
Although individuals can indeed be racist, racism and its outcomes are perpetuated in society through social processes above and beyond individual actions including through cultural norms, institutional rules, and laws and regulations.
Because the differential treatment of individuals based upon racial classification is embedded within social systems and institutions—including public policy and law—racism is commonplace rather than rare and aberrant.
While racism is perpetuated at the structural/macro level in society, listening to and understanding the lived experiences of individuals is essential for understanding how racism works to create inequities in individual outcomes
Here is a video about CRT from America Uncovered / China Uncensored a channel I support on Patreon and Locals even though I disagree with them on this issue. Their work covering the excesses and evils of the Chinese Communist Party are very important. If one thinks that the above is just liberal or leftist the below video is NOT by leftist.
Where they, and others, go wrong is explaining that the only possible conclusion is that White people are each individually racist and evil. A Black person who thinks that from CRT is just a bigot. They would think that no matter what.
The conclusion, to a Black person who is not a bigot, if there is one overarching one, is that systems of power seek to preserve themselves and to make their power seem “natural.” This applies not just to race, but class as in money, or party connections (as in a socialist state).
Examples of CRT Thinking Used For Good.
Another good analogy would be to a building with no elevator, no ramps, and no women's bathrooms. To the people who built that building it was just natural that only able-bodied men would need to be accommodated in it. The discrimination against women and the disabled is built into the structure of the building. Even if every man in that building is a male feminist disability advocate, unless they are willing to do something about the structure are they really against discrimination? Would it really be enough to be blind to the differences in that situation? Of course not.
The structures that make the processes of life in America unequal and which lead to inequity are not so easy to see but they are none the less very real. Being blind to the structure is not the solution.
It cannot be denied that just like biology, or chemistry, or physics CRT could be used to try and justify some retaliatory measures against whichever race is dominant. In the Americas that has been the White race. However, it could also be used to allow people to find, and analyze inequalities, as demonstrated via inequities, in society. Then we can really fix the problems and by creating real equality (the unobservable process of getting from point A to point B) we get real equity (the observable endpoint of the process).
CRT In Science Class, Done The Right Way.
A lot of what I do in class I can only see is CRT in hindsight. These are things I always observed were correct. Rather than teach the ethnonationalist myths, here in an integrated part of Chicagoland, we were taught in a cross cultural and diverse way from the start. So, I never had to be taught to how to have a culturally relevant curriculum. An honest curriculum in STEM will be responsive to every culture as STEM is the product of every culture. Perhaps this is why, to me, “CRT” seems totally natural? I mean heck when one Jewish teacher I had taught the class about Hannukah was that CRT?
For example, in geometry class as it has been taught in a lot of books one would think everything was invented in Greece, then after a long period of stagnation in Europe everything else was invented in the UK. Teaching that everything was invented in Sub Sharan Africa, would also be wrong. The correct lessons will teach about the truth, mathematics was discovered around the world with contributions from every civilized place. That is one way to use CRT in math class.
Note the Learners referred to below are the teachers. The way CRT would go into the classroom would be in say having examples that deal with things students encounter in their own lives VS examples from life on a farm.
For example, using the Pythagorean theorem to figure out the distance to a point three blocks east and four blocks south, if each block is 1/4 mile long on a side VS figuring out the length of the sides of a sheep pen. Clearly, since it is 2021 and few people live on farms, doing away with such examples and instead having word problems that relate to an urban or suburban environment would make sense for everyone.
You don’t have to take my word for it. This lesson on using CRT in STEM says what I just did.
Note I didn’t look at this before I wrote the last paragraph.
The latent ability of many students to do math can often be unlocked by changing the context.
As long as they think of math as being something that only relates to other people they will think they can’t do it. Another really powerful way to do this is to advise students to think of each math problem in terms of money. People who can’t answer d=rt find d if r = 80 mi/hr and t = 1 hr can answer the same question if r=$80/hr and t is 1 hr.
The non CRT answer has very often been to assume that minorities, women or lower class White people, for that matter, can’t do math. To fall back a bad understanding of IQ and general intelligence g to say that of course only certain people can do math. Usually done by people who gravely overestimate their own IQ’s.
Equality And Equity, In The Mind Of A Physicist.
Equality and equity are related just as unitary operators are to Hermitian operators. Equality would be like a unitary operator. We do not measure these, but they do describe how a physical system evolves from point A to point B over time. Equity is like a Hermitian operator we do observe the quantities these represent (position, momentum, energy, etc.). If there is an equal process of getting from point A to point B all things being equal, and assuming on average all populations are equal* then representation will be proportional. An equal process will be conservative in the sense that it will not disproportionately reject people based anything other than their ability to really do the job. As an example of how science class might be aware of inequity this is what I do.
I ensure equality and equity in my own classes by, as much as possible, having assignments that are graded by computer. Each student gets multiple chances to answer non-multiple-choice questions. Most items which I must grade by hand, essay questions, are graded anonymously. That is, I do not get to see who did the work unless I detect plagiarism and need to report it. Their lab reports and final report are not anonymous, and I look at the grades on them and on their computer graded work to see if there is a significant difference in the grade. If it looks like there is a dramatic difference that can’t be explained by some clear deficiency in their final reports, I revise my grade on their final report. The result of my process is that the students who survive in my class reflect the overall populations of the schools I teach at.
Some students don’t like this. They tend to be members of groups that outside the classroom might get structural preference due to race or being straight and not transgender. Not having such preferences can feel unfair if one is used to them. When the grading is done by computer and the grade given by a person is even higher and one still does not pass, even given 3-5 chances to get the right answers. Then it really isn’t the system.
*The retort that not all populations are equal … stop right there and ask what it is when people think that based on superficial characteristics members of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens would not be equal.
Vague Anti CRT Laws Used Or Misused
Laws to ban CRT were often worded in broad and vague ways to include anything that might make one student feel bad/inferior to another student. They could even be framed as somehow pro minority. Who would feel good to learn that their ancestors were treated as property? Who would feel good to learn that their ancestors did that to the ancestors of their classmates? No kid that was raised right would. So, laws were written to ban anything like that.
There could be a correct use of a well written law meant to ban teaching that any race is superior. So no White Supremacy, no Black Supremacy. Any such law would need to specify that teaching factual events of history with a focus on US and American history in K-8, does not imply that one race is superior to the other.
It was often said that no one would want to ban teaching about Martin Luther King. Well, here we are and guess what at least one group of Tennessee mothers wants to do.
A Tennessee chapter of "Moms for Liberty" filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Education alleging that assigning 2nd Graders a book about MLK Jr's March on Washington violated the state's new law banning Critical Race Theory pic.twitter.com/STDiPY48jH
I don’t take this to say that simply being a White person and participating in the above is White Supremacy. What he is saying here is that when someone is a White supremacist, with half a brain, they enact what they want to do via the above totally benign structures of society.
As I said above, in any social system the powerful try to make their position of power seem as naturally occurring as the warmth of the Sun or water being wet. In Europe at one time it was natural that those closer to the king by blood were better and more powerful. In the Americas, White Supremacy won’t come in white sheets but in the form of.