Teaching About Racism

January 21, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 2
Should concepts of critical race theory be part of classroom instruction?
By Ruth Terry


In 2020, critical race theory (CRT) became a political wedge issue, as conservative legislators, educators and parents sought to ban CRT from K-12 schools, even as many K-12 educators denied that it was being taught. Critics also took aim at diversity training programs in workplaces and universities. A legal framework pioneered in the 1970s, critical race theory maintains that racism is commonplace and systemic within legal and social structures, and it centers the history and lived experiences of marginalized people. Measures to ban CRT or its underlying concepts from classrooms have been proposed in nearly 30 states and enacted in at least eight. In the corporate sector, some employees are pushing back on diversity training that asks workers to reflect on racial bias and privilege, with some filing lawsuits. Despite widespread debate, there is little consensus among either opponents or proponents about what constitutes critical race theory within curricula and workplace trainings. Still, the controversy continues to rage in legislative assemblies, school board meetings and on social media.

Photo of a woman displaying a banner opposing critical race theory in Ashburn, Virginia, on October 12, 2021. (AFP/Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)
A woman displays a banner opposing critical race theory at a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va., in October. Although many K-12 educators say this legal theory is not part of classroom instruction, measures to ban it are being debated and adopted in many states and school districts. (AFP/Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Education Issues
Jan. 27, 2023  Deaths of Despair
Sep. 23, 2022  Public Schools' Challenges
Aug. 12, 2022  Parents' Rights
Apr. 01, 2022  Online Learning
Jan. 21, 2022  Teaching About Racism
Oct. 01, 2021  COVID-19 and Children
Jun. 11, 2021  Special Education
Jun. 21, 2019  Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault
May 17, 2019  School Safety
Feb. 02, 2018  Bullying and Cyberbullying
Feb. 03, 2017  Civic Education
Sep. 05, 2014  Race and Education
Jun. 13, 2014  Dropout Rate
May 09, 2014  School Discipline
Mar. 07, 2014  Home Schooling
Dec. 02, 2011  Digital Education
Nov. 15, 2011  Expanding Higher Education
Dec. 10, 2010  Preventing Bullying Updated
Apr. 16, 2010  Revising No Child Left Behind
Mar. 26, 2010  Teen Pregnancy
Sep. 04, 2009  Financial Literacy
Jun. 05, 2009  Student Rights
Feb. 22, 2008  Reading Crisis?
Jul. 13, 2007  Students Under Stress
Apr. 27, 2007  Fixing Urban Schools Updated
Nov. 10, 2006  Video Games Updated
Mar. 03, 2006  AP and IB Programs
Oct. 07, 2005  Academic Freedom
Aug. 26, 2005  Evaluating Head Start
May 27, 2005  No Child Left Behind
Jan. 17, 2003  Home Schooling Debate
Sep. 06, 2002  Teaching Math and Science
Jun. 07, 2002  Grade Inflation
Dec. 07, 2001  Distance Learning
Apr. 20, 2001  Testing in Schools
May 14, 1999  National Education Standards
Apr. 10, 1998  Liberal Arts Education
Jul. 26, 1996  Attack on Public Schools
May 17, 1996  Year-Round Schools
Oct. 20, 1995  Networking the Classroom
Sep. 22, 1995  High School Sports
Jan. 20, 1995  Parents and Schools
Sep. 09, 1994  Home Schooling
Mar. 25, 1994  Private Management of Public Schools
Mar. 11, 1994  Education Standards
Apr. 09, 1993  Head Start
Nov. 30, 1990  Conflict Over Multicultural Education
Feb. 05, 1988  Preschool: Too Much Too Soon?
Oct. 23, 1987  Education Reform
Aug. 24, 1984  Status of the Schools
Sep. 10, 1982  Schoolbook Controversies
Sep. 03, 1982  Post-Sputnik Education
Aug. 18, 1978  Competency Tests
Jan. 26, 1972  Public School Financing
Nov. 03, 1971  Education for Jobs
Apr. 15, 1970  Reform of Public Schools
Aug. 27, 1969  Discipline in Public Schools
Dec. 27, 1968  Community Control of Public Schools
Jun. 14, 1965  Summer School Innovations
Oct. 28, 1964  Education of Slum Children
Jun. 05, 1963  Year-Round School
Mar. 28, 1962  Mentally Retarded Children
Dec. 17, 1958  Educational Testing
Sep. 25, 1957  Liberal Education
Jul. 11, 1956  Educational Exchange
Feb. 02, 1955  Federal Aid for School Construction
Mar. 07, 1951  Education in an Extended Emergency
Nov. 20, 1945  Postwar Public Education
Nov. 07, 1941  Standards of Education
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
Civil Rights Movement
Congress Actions
Conservatism and Liberalism
Diversity Issues
Early Childhood Education
Education Policy
Elementary and Secondary Education
General Social Trends
Internet and Social Media
Journalism and the News
Online Education
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Print Media
Protest Movements
Research in Education
Student Movements
Supreme Court History and Decisions