Indoctrination or distraction?: NC joins the battle over Critical Race Theory

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, May 20, 2021
North Carolina joins the battle over Critical Race Theory
One side of North Carolina legislature calls it a lesson to make people feel guilty about their race while the other side calls it an opportunity to find a solution to a problem.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Republicans at the General Assembly have voted forward a bill that adds North Carolina to a growing list of states introducing legislation to limit the use of Critical Race Theory in public schools. But, what is the concept? Is it the indoctrination of children that some critics says it is? Or is it much ado about nothing?

From his Triangle classroom, Kumar Sathy teaches some of all the core subjects: math, science, and history.

"Critical Race Theory is not something I'm teaching my fifth graders," Sathy said. "It's not a theory that I know very much about. It's an academic concept."

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A concept that has turned into a national controversy. Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson has led the charge against it in Raleigh

"If I go into the classroom and I can't put my opinion aside long enough to go inside the classroom and give impressionable, young minds just the facts without my opinion, I have failed as an educator," Robinson said at a news conference in March.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson says some parents, kids and educators have concerns over what's being taught in North Carolina public schools.

Following Robinson's lead, State House GOP passed House Bill 324 last week, they say, to counteract the use of Critical Race Theory in the classroom.

Critical Race Theory a set of academic themes, including that racism is baked into the nation's systems and institutions impacting outcomes for people of color.

Critics think its reverse racism. The North Carolina bill aims to keep people from being made to feel guilty about their race because of past actions of people of their race.

"It simply prevents schools from endorsing discriminatory concepts," said Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett on the floor of the House, in defense of the bill.

What is a part of Sathy's classroom discussions, he says, is the topic of race and racism: talking about race; identifying racism and counteracting stereotypes.

"Where is the line between indoctrination and good teaching," Sathy asks. "If I teach my students not to bully each other, am I indoctrinating them? For teachers who teach history, in particular, race and racism is a core part of it. It's a part of our history and can't be removed or shouldn't be removed."

UNC-Chapel Hill professor and Racial Equity Institute instructor Dr. Deborah Stroman believes the controversy and the legislation is merely a distraction.

"I find it to be a solution looking for a problem," Stroman said. "The best space to talk about race and racism is in the classroom. Because we're supposed to be open to ideas and thoughts."

Sathy says his classroom lesson plans haven't received much pushback.

"I've had a colleague tell me I teach too much anti-racism -- whatever that means," he says, "But my students' parents have been overwhelmingly supportive."

Stroman feels critics of Critical Race Theory are using it as a boogeyman. She says it is not being taught at K-12 schools and even at universities, it's a graduate-level concept.

Nevertheless, HB 324 has won passage in the House. It is now awaiting action in the state Senate.