In a proposed rule April 19, the Biden administration’s Education Department laid out plans to strongly encourage, if not require, federally funded “American History and Civics Education” programs to focus on “the consequences of slavery” and “the ongoing national reckoning with systemic racism.” The program would “incorporate anti-racist practices into teaching and learning.”
There could be legal problems, however. The use of highly charged and stylized code words like “equity,” “systemic racism,” and “anti-racism” make clear that this is far more than a plan to teach American history, flaws and all. On the contrary, the administration seeks to entrench a comprehensive – almost ontological – historical view, often referred to as critical race theory.
According to the department’s rulemaking notice, grant-funded teachers must emphasize racial “identities” and create an “identity-safe learning environment.” Teachers also must teach the tenets of critical race theory: “systemic racism, biases, inequities, and discriminatory policy and practice in American history.” One critical race theory proponent even called Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a colorblind society “racist.”
Teachers will also be required to emphasize “equity” as the solution.
Here is where the legal problems begin. By incorporating these ideas into a federally funded grant program, the administration sends a clear message: America is not a country that has struggled to overcome racism but one that itself remains deeply racist – and this premise should form the foundation of “American History and Civics.”