The head of America’s second largest teachers’ union has accused Republican politicians of ‘bullying’ teachers and preventing them from teaching ‘honest history’ after 26 states make moves to ban lessons on Critical Race Theory.
Randi Weingarten, who represents 1.7 million teachers as head of the American Federation of Teachers, said on Wednesday that Republicans were using intimidation tactics.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a lightning rod for conservatives.
Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, on Wednesday spoke at the annual conference of her union, held online. She said that Republicans were ‘bullying’ teachers and frightening them away from teaching ‘honest history’ – but insisted CRT was not taught in schools
Randi Weingarten moments ago claiming Republican legislators are “bullying” teachers.
“There are legislators, mostly from the Republican Party, who are currently bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching kids honest history.” pic.twitter.com/ur7euSDCDg
Critics of Critical Race Theory argue that the doctrine of reassessing U.S. history through the lens of slavery and race relations makes white children feel guilty for the color of their skin, and creates racial division. Supporters say it is a necessary reassessment of historic reality.
Weingarten on Wednesday spoke during her union’s TEACH Virtual Conference 2021, running from July 6-10.
‘There are legislators, mostly from the Republican party, who are currently bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching kids honest history,’ Weingarten told the audience.
‘Look, maybe they are just trying to raise the temperature on race relations because of the next election.’
She said that Republicans were trying to stifle debate.
‘Culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as [critical race theory] to try to make it toxic,’ she said.
‘They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.’
Currently, 26 states have introduced legislation or have taken other actions to restrict the teaching of Critical Race Theory according to Education Week.
Meetings of school boards have become extremely heated, as parents angrily denounce teachers – who often insist they don’t even teach CRT. Loudoun County in Virginia has seen some of the most dramatic scenes, with two people even being arrested during the wild meeting on June 22.
Sheriffs in Loudoun County, Virginia, are seen confronting parents angered by talk of teaching CRT in schools
At least two people were arrested during the chaotic June 22 meeting of the school board
Angry parents yelled at school security officers and sheriffs in Loudoun County last month
On Tuesday, Weingarten said her organization is already ‘preparing for litigation as we speak’ against states which ban CRT.
Her spokesman, Andrew Crook, said the union has yet to identify specific targets.
Yet she insisted that CRT did not feature in school curriculum, and was only taught at college and university level.
‘Critical Race Theory is not taught in elementary schools or middle schools or high schools,’ she said, in remarks obtained by Fox News.
Yet Weingarten’s guest speaker, Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be an Antiracist, urged teachers to talk to pupils about racism and inequality, and promoted CRT.
Author Ibram X. Kendi also addressed the AFT conference on Wednesday, and said he thought CRT should be taught in schools
Kendi’s book has become a best seller
‘If you’re a child that’s ten years old and you see that certain racial groups have more, and certain racial groups have less, you’re going to be asking, ‘Why is that the case?” he told the audience.
‘And to me, it is the prudent thing to do for teachers to say that the cause of the disparity that you see are the result of racism, are the result of bad rules, are the result of history, and we’re trying to change this.’
As teachers’ unions nationwide hold their annual gatherings, CRT has been a hot topic of conversation.
The National Education Association (NEA) during its June 30-July 3 conference passed a resolution that in part would ‘fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric.’
The same union also passed a $56,500 measure to ‘research the organizations attacking educators doing anti-racist work.’
At the union’s national meeting last week, president Becky Pringle urged teachers to prepare students for a society that ‘has wrestled with the sins of its past’ and learned from them.
‘If this grand experiment in democracy is to succeed, if the inhabitants of our nation are to prosper, we must continuously do the work to challenge ourselves and others to dismantle the racist interconnected systems, and the economic injustices that have perpetuated systemic inequities,’ she said.
Last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law forbidding schools from teaching that people ‘should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress’ because of their race or sex.
It adds that slavery and racism can only be taught as a deviation from the nation’s ‘authentic founding principles’ of liberty and equality.
Bills in some other states threaten to fine individual teachers who violate the rules or reduce state funding to their schools.
‘Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history,’ Weingarten said in her remarks for a virtual address to union members on Tuesday.
‘Teaching the truth is not radical or wrong. Distorting history and threatening educators for teaching the truth is what is truly radical and wrong.’
Six states have banned the critical race theory and another dozen are considering passing similar resolutions
In an interview with the Associated Press, Weingarten said the union is adding $2.5 million to an existing legal defense fund in anticipation of local fights over the teaching of race. The funding will be used to defend teachers who are disciplined for teaching about slavery and racism, Weingarten said.
The union is also considering filing lawsuits to get clarification about new state laws limiting how racism can be discussed in schools, she said.
‘We’re looking at these laws to see if courts will give some clarification in advance,’ Weingarten said. ‘It just looks like it´s an attempt to erase so much of the history of the United States.’
Lawn signs opposing the critical race theory were posted outside a school board meeting in Virginia last month
Virginians gathered to rally against critical race theory at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg on June 12
One woman held up a sign claiming the theory creates racial tension
Some parents held signs showing their opposition to the theory as the meeting went on inside
Critics of the theory claims it separates children into two categories based on their skin color – oppressed or oppressor
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The fight over critical race theory in schools has escalated in the United States over the last year.
The theory has sparked a fierce nationwide debate in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the country over the last year and the introduction of the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times in 2019 to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, reframes American history by ‘placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the US narrative’.
The debate surrounding critical race theory regards concerns that some children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Those against critical race theory have argued it reduces people to the categories of ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressed’ based on their skin color.
Supporters, however, say the theory is vital to eliminating racism because it examines the ways in which race influence American politics, culture and the law.
Once an obscure academic idea, critical race theory has become a political rallying cry for Republicans who argue that it sows division and makes children feel guilty for being white.
But Weingarten said the concept has mostly been taught at the college level and is not taught at the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools.
She said some of the state laws are so expansive that they appear to prevent any accurate lesson on the Civil War, slavery or its abolition.
‘Teaching America’s history requires considering all the facts available to us – including those that are uncomfortable – like the history of enslavement and discrimination toward people of color and people perceived as different,’ she wrote in her comments.
‘Years ago, the country unified against Holocaust deniers. We must unite again to address racism and its long-term effects.’
Her remarks came just two days after she was accused of gaslighting parents by tweeting ‘these bans on teaching history and discussing racism are so dangerous.’
In response, New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz wrote: ‘No one gaslights quite like Randi Weingarten gaslights.’
Others on Twitter also called out her remarks, with user GoPackJo saying, ‘If you need to lie in order to push your agenda, it’s gotta be awful,’ and Daniela Oertli writing that it is ‘Incredibly deceitful to pretend that teaching and discussing racism can only happen in the framework of CRT.’
@LibertyBellaDon, meanwhile, wrote that ‘CRT is neither history nor a “discussion” on racism. It’s a one-sided view that does not allow for a “discussion,”‘ and Marilyn Muller said: ‘Let’s not misappropriate the word history, Randi.’
‘I don’t know one American that’s against ensuring all students know all history facts, but segregating students into one of two categories—oppressed or oppressor— is teaching children to #BeRacist,’ Muller wrote.
And @aphofer asked, ‘So which is it, “we aren’t teaching CRT in schools” or “CRT=History?”
‘Neither is close to the truth,’ he wrote.
Over the weekend, Weingarten tweeted that bans on critical race theory were bans on history
People took to Twitter afterwards to criticize her remarks, accusing her of gaslighting parents