Should Critical Race Theory be allowed in school curriculum?

Recently, House Bill 1141 has been moving through the General Assembly of Missouri regarding the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” and the usage of material from the 1619 Project, which has garnered quite a bit of attention. The Bill aims to block or limit funding for public and charter schools which use material relating to Critical Race Theory such as the 1619 Project. While some hold The 1619 Project in high regard for shining light on a troubling side of American history, others hold it to scrutiny for its bias and historical inaccuracies. But, as for whether we should use it in standard curriculum or not, the answer is not as clear as you may think.

The 1619 Project was published by the New York Times and developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones with the support of several historians. The goal of the 1619 Project was “to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.” This alternative perspective was ambitious but just as equally damaging to the concepts many have regarding our nation’s founding principles.

The accuracy of the project has been held under scrutiny by multiple historians, such as Leslie M. Harris, an African-American historian who disputed a claim by the project that, “One critical reason that the colonists declared their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery in the colonies, which had produced tremendous wealth.” Though there is some truth to this, as the colonial economy relied heavily on cheap raw materials produced by means of slavery, it was not a main focus of the colonists who each had predominant regional motivations for independence.

While the 1619 Project is one aspect of the bill, its main target is “Critical Race Theory,” which aims to study how law and race intersect. Critical Race Theory is an academic movement, which focuses on analyzing systemic racism, internalized racism, white privilege, and challenging liberal approaches to social justice to name a few. The findings of studies related to CRT when implemented into curriculum continue to try and challenge a “white narrative” in American History classes and forms of systemic racism. Some instances of which have been criticized by some as helping to project an agenda that could lead to self-hatred or guilt in students.

However, while accuracy and the agendas of some curriculum can be held to skepticism, outright banning not just the 1619 Project itself but the concepts behind CRT and what they are about is dangerous. Missouri House Bill 1141 itself states in one clause, “Curricula implementing Critical Race Theory include, but are not limited to, the 1619 Project initiative of the New York Times,” etc. “But are not limited to,” is vesting a powerful ability of censorship in the hands of school boards and lawmakers. Such power places curricula involving the themes of race and the lasting effects of events and eras covered in the 1619 Project and other academic works at risk.

The issues of race and systemic racism are definitely major issues that will continue to be in the forefront of the American conscious for decades to come. In order to handle the topic of race and the lasting effects of slavery and segregation in the classroom, we have to put learning first and leave challenging the system to each individual student. So if we make a curriculum, let it be one that inspires us to keep pushing to build a more perfect union. One that inspires students to learn more about our nation’s past, both the good and bad, so they as freethinking individuals can determine what they want the future to look like.