Gianna Perlman, Grade 11, Staff Writer
Throughout American history, race has played a major role in countless cultural and political issues. Recent debates over the teaching of Critical Race Theory, CRT, have risen across the country, and many Republican led states have banned it in classrooms. Critical Race Theory is defined as the study of American history from a racial lens, specifically in a legal context. Its stance is that race is a social construct, and discrimination against people of color, especially African Americans, is built into the legal system. Teachings may include studying economic disparities between racial groups, or investigating the Constitution's racial implications.
For about two years, the right to teach CRT has been under attack by Republican lawmakers, who misunderstand the course to be an attack on white people and America itself. In the time this has become a hot button topic, seven states have banned Critical Race Theory, and, more recently, in October, an Orange County School district banned the framework of CRT in K-12 classrooms. Those opposed to CRT believe its lessons negatively influence the younger generation. In reality, Critical Race Theory is a specific legal history study that is not offered at a high school level, let alone in kindergarten. The fight against CRT has broadened into one not against the course, but against the teaching of the history of racism itself in classrooms.
At the High School of American Studies, students take a three-year U.S. History course, obviously much longer than a typical year-long class found at your average high school. Given its extension, students at the school have a deeper knowledge of American history than most. Students currently taking AP U.S. History were asked about their understanding and opinions on CRT.
“I think Critical Race Theory is very important in classrooms,” said junior Naomi Turay. When asked about HSAS’ role in incorporating any elements of CRT, Turay explained that it has always been present: “It's something that's always existed within the curriculum, it just has a name now.”
Junior Kathleen Halley-Segal believes that the school is actually not doing enough to teach about CRT: “U.S. history classes have facilitated some really valuable discussions relating to Critical Race Theory, but there is definitely so much we should be discussing that I know very little about.”
The debate over Critical Race Theory is bound to have future effects and cannot be ignored. If most red states continue to ban its teaching in K-12 education, there would be no clear rules as to what racial topics can and cannot be taught, which would blur the standard American History curriculum. In more liberal regions though, it is unlikely anti-CRT legislation would pass, and elements of it will continue to be taught, providing a necessary perspective of U.S. History. The disparity we are beginning to see in historical education has the potential to divide future generations and further the spread of misinformation about our own history.