The Future of Schools and Critical Race Theory after Youngkin’s Victory

Following Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory on Nov. 2 over Democratic incumbent Gov. Terry McAuliffe for the governorship of Virginia and Democratic incumbent’s Gov. Phil Murphy’s narrow win for the governorship of New Jersey, commentators on both sides—conservatives and liberals—are interpreting the outcomes from opposing perspectives. Education was the focus of the gubernatorial races this time, especially in Virginia. We recommend that you carefully review certain school policies that are not supportive of critical race theory, and what these mean for schools in the coming year.

Referring to the public’s perception during and after the Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Yascha Mounk, Johns Hopkins University professor and a contributor to The Atlantic, said, “Democrats are out of tune with the country on cultural issues.”  

Mounk said the left’s concern now should be the long game—not just the next election, but the next legislative session in the spring when lawmakers ready to reject critical race theory’s racial discrimination will capitalize on the election results with policy changes.

He argued that legislators could overstep their bounds by expressing fervor in 2021 in introducing bills that would prohibit the use of critical race theory within K-12 classrooms.

Despite the mainstream media’s claims that schools do not teach critical race theory, research from The Heritage Foundation has documented time and time again that educators’ around the country are, in fact, using critical ideas in K-12 schools, both in classroom material as well as in other school activities. The Heritage Foundation’s multimedia news outlet The Daily Signal.

Mounk deserves credit because he acknowledged that the theory is evident in schools. However, he anticipates that lawmakers may stumble as they try and respond.

He said, “In the coming years, the introduction of such laws … is likely to lead to a significant number of teachers who are unfairly punished for doing their job.” The left should be ready to “decry such injustices,” he says, and create momentum against the parents attending school board meetings to object to critical ideas.

Mounk’s advice is meant for those on the left, but conservatives would do well to pay attention. To protect students and teachers from racial discrimination, lawmakers should carefully craft legislative proposals that reject critical race theory. This will allow for robust classroom conversations.

Mounk misrepresents the majority of the proposals against critical race theory that state lawmakers considered in this year’s legislative tracker. The Heritage Foundation’s legislation tracker has followedThese proposals were monitored and advised on the various approaches state legislators have suggested.

Legislators need to be mindful of protecting students from such biased acts privilege walks, mandatory affinity groups, and school assignments advocating for the 1619 Project’s factually inaccurate and politically skewed lessons on U.S. history. These applications of critical race theory generally require teachers and students to profess belief in the theory’s main precepts—resulting in illegal compelled speech.

But legislators should resist the temptation of limiting what is taught in the classroom or banning books. Lawmakers can do all these things by focusing their attention on protecting teachers and students from the application of critical race theory’s prejudicial concepts.

Many others have done it already and set a course for state officials next year. Federal lawmakers who have jurisdiction over public schools in Washington, D.C., introduced a proposal that says no teacher or student should be compelled to affirm any idea that violates the nation’s most important civil rights law, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

No educator or student should be required to believe that anyone “by virtue of his or her race” is “inherently racist,” whether “consciously or unconsciously.” This is the main idea behind one of critical race theory’s central precepts, that everyone is guilty of unconscious bias.

The Heritage Foundation’s model proposalCriticism of critical race theory is not supported by provisions. These provisions address the issue and other issues as well, such ideas found in a proposal. South CarolinaTeachers cannot be required to take part in training programs asking them to affirm that certain individuals are entitled to special benefits or sanctions based upon their skin color.

The Heritage Foundation’s proposal also stipulates educators should not protect students from ideas with which they disagree but prepare children at age-appropriate levels to confront racial discrimination with the truth—that just because some Americans failed to live up to our founding ideal of equality under the law does not mean our national creed is at fault.

Rather, it’s our responsibility to fulfill our national promise of freedom and opportunity for everyone, regardless of their background and prepare the next generation to do the same.

After the most recent election, lawmakers need to consider more than just why the majority of votes were cast a certain way. They also need to consider how to govern well. There is already a course that will protect children against racial discrimination in schools through the application of critical racism theory. It would be a good idea for legislators to follow it.

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