Saturday, October 30, 2021

Critical Race Theory: it's not taught in schools, but it's there!

 By J. Humperdinck Stover
Prep Correspondent

Critical Race Theory: what is it?  And why are Republicans claiming that teaching it to our impressionable kindergartners is the greatest threat to America since George McGovern?

We've actually been through this before.  But before we go on, our friend Eric Boehlert wants to make one point about CRT clear to even the meanest intelligence (by which we mean Republicans):

Trying to pull off an upset in the Virginia governor’s race next week, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin continues his push with an unlikely pledge at the center of his campaign: If elected he would immediately ban the teaching of critical race theory in Commonwealth classrooms.

His promise to voters has produced nonstop media coverage, as the political press eagerly hypes the possibility of a Democratic loss.

The Middlesex School is situated on 350
verdant acres in Concord, Mass.

What the media have uniformly failed to do in Virginia, and nationwide as deep-pocketed, right-wing activists march on with their manufactured outrage over CRT, is forcefully point out that it’s not taught in schools. Period. When pressed, most Republican parents, politicians and activists aren’t able to explain what CRT is. (It’s an academic framework taught at the college level that examines how systemic racism is ingrained in America’s history.) 

Mr. Boehlert's point is that the media has utterly failed to point out the simple fact that it is not taught in primary or secondary schools.  He's right of course, but we can't improve on his takedown, so we'll just note that CRT may not be taught in American secondary schools, but it's sure “ingrained” there.

Case in point: a recent contretemps at an elite Boston-area prep school, Middlesex.  For those of you living west of Worcester, Middlesex is one of a constellation of famous New England prep schools that have turned out generations of white men who inherited or took all the money and now tell the rest of us what to do.

The private equity guy who bought your dad's company and sent all the jobs to China?  Middlesex.

The guy who decided that despite your good grades and straightened teeth, you just weren't “clubbable?” Middlesex.

The guy whose kid was addicted to heroin but still got into the college you didn't because he was recruited for the squash team?  Middlesex.

You get the drift.

Prof. Hannah-Jones: too noisy for Middlesex?
Recently, as part of the School's plans for 2022 Black History Month, a group of Black students decided to invite distinguished scholar Nikole Hannah-Jones to speak on campus.  Prof. Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur genius grant and Pulitzer Prize winner and Professor at the Howard University School of Journalism, is most famous for the 1619 Project, a collaboration among scholars and artists to rethink American history by putting the experience of Black people at the center of it.  No one suggests that this approach is the only way to analyze our past, but, based on results to date, it sure seems like a fruitful one that deserves to take its place alongside the prevailing great-white-men-doing-stuff school.

We hesitate to use the term “no-brainer” for this proposal, because it seems like a full brainer: invite a great scholar of Black and American History to speak at Black History Month.

Who could object to the invitation?

If you guessed white men, you won!

According to The Boston Globe

Hannah-Jones revealed on Twitter on Oct. 18 that the school had withdrawn an invitation for her to speak on campus next February for Black History Month due to the “noise” her presence would create, according to an excerpt of an e-mail from a school representative she posted online.

Even before Bari Weiss could weigh in on this obvious infringement of academic freedom (and we're still waiting), the School realized that it had, to employ a quaint preppie expression, “stepped in the deep doo-doo.” 

This didn't happen in some gator-infested swamp in Florida or Texas wasteland.  This was the home town of Alcott, Emerson, and Thoreau.   As a result,

On Oct. 20, nearly 100 faculty members signed a letter to the board of trustees denouncing the school for rescinding the invitation, saying Hannah-Jones’s visit “promised an important opportunity to continue our work of confronting the deep wounds of slavery and systemic racism.”

The faculty members asked trustees to have Beare “formally apologize to Ms. Hannah-Jones, as well as to the school, which he deprived of an exceptional moment of learning.”

In response, Beare and board of trustees president Stephen Lari took responsibility for the school’s decision, saying it “was profoundly wrong” and calling it “a shameful mistake.” 

Now we spent a few years in a prep school, before effecting a daring escape, so let us help you translate this from prep to English.

These prep schools, although imposing and apparently invulnerable from the outside, actually depend on the kindness of wealthy alumni who believe, like all rich white men, that their pelf entitles them to tell everyone else what to do and think.  Also, like other prep schools of our acquaintance, the real power lies in one Trustee, and the rest are just window-dressing, as the other Trustees took pains to note.

Here, the spineless toadying (and penniless) headmaster, David Beare, whose job is to shake down rich alumni for huge bucks and otherwise not rock the boat, was ordered in no uncertain terms to get rid of an uppity Black academic who dared to challenge white hegemony.  When he was caught in the act (and what did these clueless wypipo think Prof. Hannah-Jones was going to do?), he was chucked into the volcano as a sacrifice.

Nor were the rest of the Board of Trustees idle.  They ordered an independent inquiry.

The chairman of the Middlesex School
Board of Trustees wasn't having
any guff from those people

What they mean by this is that they will hire a fancy Boston law firm with innumerable personal and business ties to the School and its trustees to inter the whole mess behind a report that, being done by $1,500-an-hour mouthpieces and not by anyone who knows anything about history, racism, or academic freedom, will be protected from disclosure for all eternity by attorney-client privilege.

By the way, who is Stephen Lari and how is it that he gets to decide what gets taught and what doesn't at an elite New England prep school?  After a worldwide search, he was named a partner of his family's big real estate management and development business, The Claremont Group. Whether any Black folks were chosen to swim in this money river is not known, but we'll hazard a guess.

And what about the other Trustees who chucked the hapless headmaster over the side while allowing Lari to escape unscathed?

Some of them, like Bret Stephens and Cass Sunstein, are known to honk loudly whenever they see freedom, defined by them, threatened, so we're looking forward to their decision to replace Lari with someone who has a passing acquaintance with and understanding of free discourse.  We'll let you know.

We'll also let you know if the school reissues its invitation to Prof. Hannah-Jones, who has a reputation of not putting up with white man nonsense, as the University of North Carolina can attest.

But still – how could this happen in Massachusetts in the year 2021?  We'll bet that the answer can be found in a form of analysis that looks for the long-embedded effects of systemic racism on powerful institutions dominated by rich white men since 1619.

If that theory seems too critical, race-centered, or noisy to you, don't worry, they don't teach it in Virginia schools.

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