The popularized term “critical race theory” has made waves across American education systems, and now a top Pennsylvania school district, Pittsburgh Public Schools, is among those being swept up in its controversial current. As part of an initiative to infuse racial equity learning resources into the curriculum, the district appears to be pushing educators toward a specific narrative that paints America as systemically racist and merit-based policies as “rooted in Whiteness.”
Pittsburgh Public Schools now hosts an array of resources for teachers on its website, focusing on topics such as “Whiteness” and how to be a “culturally responsive” White teacher. The resources draw heavily from the book “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi, which posits that “racist ideas have been stamped” into America’s foundation.
'Building an Antiracist America': Top Pennsylvania School District Pushes Teachers To Infuse Critical Race Theory Into Their Lessons https://t.co/xNjTon9skc
— A.C. Spollen (@ACSpollen) July 5, 2023
Pennsylvania state Rep. Barbara Gleim (R) criticized the move, remarking, “The entrance of race theory into Pittsburgh Public Schools is not surprising,” given the evidence of school assignments riddled with diversity, equity and inclusion themes. Gleim’s concern stems from a mounting focus on such narratives at the expense of fundamental academic skills.
The district’s training resources argue that individuals are inherently racist unless they actively strive for “antiracism.” Teachers are being guided to avoid teaching “colorblindness,” reflecting a stance that contrasts with conservative values of judging individuals by character rather than color. Moreover, the training extensively delves into the Black Lives Matter movement, urging educators to correct perceived misconceptions about the movement, downplaying the violent riots of the summer of 2020.
Another cause for concern is the way these training materials seem to push White educators to “disrupt Whiteness and White supremacy” within themselves and their classrooms. This call for self-disruption is unsettling to many conservatives, as it seems to deny the merit-based system that has underpinned America’s prosperity and instead insists on a racial lens for all societal interactions.
On the other hand, some are lobbying the school district to address racial disparities in student discipline. According to ACLU data, 89% of summary citations levied in the district during the 2021-2022 school year were given to Black students despite comprising only 53% of the student population. However, it should be noted that the debate over discipline procedures is separate from the ideological shift being experienced in the classroom – one doesn’t justify the other.
The district’s approach contrasts with Philadelphia’s Great Valley School District, which denies using critical race theory while quietly guiding teachers on how to introduce these ideas. Pittsburgh Public Schools, in contrast, openly states on its website that its teaching pedagogy is grounded in social justice narratives.
The bottom line is the change in focus in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system, coupled with the declining math and reading scores, is not a trend that should be ignored. As Gleim, also a parent and former school board member, rightly points out, parents should have the final say in what their children are taught. Unfortunately, the ongoing shift in narrative may leave many parents feeling sidelined in their children’s education.