What’s Actually Being Taught in History Class

By Kassie Bracken, Mark Boyer, Jacey Fortin, Rebecca Lieberman and Noah Throop:

Schools across the country have been caught up in spirited debates over what students should learn about United States history. We talked to social studies teachers about how they run their classrooms, what they teach and why.

In the last two years, dozens of state legislatures have introduced bills that would limit what teachers can say about complicated subjects like race, gender and inequality.

The legislation is part of a larger debate over politics in public school education. Across the United States, parents have demanded more oversight over curriculums, and school board meetings have erupted into fiery discussions.

How have these debates affected the classroom?

In 2020, amid widespread protests over racial inequality, some conservative activists began using critical race theory, or C.R.T., as a catchphrase. They claimed that C.R.T., a decades-old scholarly framework that raised questions about structural racism and inequality, was infiltrating modern-day classrooms.

“They’re trying to rewrite history and redesign the future of the United States,” said Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, who last year signed legislation intended to ban C.R.T. in the state’s public schools. “But also, they’re undermining the very values and core of what America stands for.”

But until it became a headline, some of the teachers we talked to had never heard of critical race theory.