CRT Controversy

Critical race theory should be included in the curriculum

Ivan Endelman, Features Editor

After three years of traditional history courses, my senior class was finally deemed ready to discuss critical race theory (CRT). I had no clue what to expect. Would tensions boil over in our discussion? Would our teacher present biased sources? Instead, we analyzed numerous sources and expressed unique opinions, with complete respect and civility. 

Critical race theory analyzes U.S. history through the lens of systemic racism, an idea that has exploded across America in recent years. Americans are divided on whether schools should support, teach or even discuss CRT.  

This brief senior unit is reflective of CESJDS’s stance on the theory; the school isn’t unequivocally embracing CRT but isn’t shying away from the topic either. By introducing the theory’s ideas in a constructive manner, JDS is fostering a better understanding of American history.

The school’s approach stems from a framework called the Diversity Equity Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) Learning Framework. The document was carefully crafted by administrators in the 2021-2022 school year and commits to teaching about inequality, injustice and privilege. 

In today’s polarized climate, addressing these topics is bound to trigger some level of alarm. In Washington Jewish Week, parents of JDS alumni raised concerns through an open letter. The letter expresses fear that the framework discourages free thought and mainstreams a radical ideology. 

In reality, there is very little evidence to necessitate this reaction. Neither teachers nor students are restricted by this document. During my history class’s discussion, minority opinions were freely shared without any animosity or angry responses. I am glad that our school is able to instill freedom of speech and thought while also introducing us to critical theories.

Despite this, one phrase in particular from the framework has drawn the most criticism. “Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics while identifying figures, groups, events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice around the world.” 

Recognizing “power and privilege” was specifically critiqued in the parent-written op-ed. The op-ed authors interpreted this incredibly specific sentence through a racial and political lens. While this idea could have been more clearly conveyed, the framework is acknowledging power and privilege as two factors in the larger context of history.  

History Department Chair Mark Buckley teaches CRT in an unbiased way in his senior classes. He views the framework as applicable beyond the U.S. and race. 

“It’s [the framework] not just racial. The feudal system was built around the ideas of power and privilege, so understanding those dynamics can be applied in a variety of different contexts,” Buckley said. “I don’t think it has to be a racially charged perspective.” 

While some schools have botched the implementation of CRT and become kindling for conservative pundits, JDS has not. The document itself is a general guideline of our school’s objectives and nothing more. 

Since its establishment, JDS has been constantly evolving and modernizing its curriculum. But the line of unfairly restricting speech or thought is not being crossed. Teachers, administrators and students are all doing their part to continue fostering productive, analytical and respectful conversations.