Changing Culture with the Other CRT

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) document, “Navigating EdEquityVa — Virginia’s Road Map to Equity” lays out a back-door strategy for changing traditional American values and culture.

“The mission of the Virginia Department of Education,” says the Road Map, “is to advance equitable and innovative learning.” The document acknowledges senior staff, four departments and ten “organizations and thought leaders” for their research and scholarship contributions to EdEquityVA for Culturally Relevant/Responsive Teaching (CRT) — not to be confused with Critical Race Theory (also referred to as CRT).

While educators deny they teach Critical Race Theory in schools, they are up front about their commitment to Culturally Relevant/Responsive Teaching. What they seem unwilling to admit is that culturally relevant teaching is an outgrowth of Critical Race Theory.

Culturally Responsive Teaching builds on the common-sense idea that teachers should take into account students’ cultural background and experiences when interacting with them. Thus, the Road Map quotes Gloria Ladson-Billings as making the benign observation that CRT “recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning.”

But the Road Map doesn’t stop there. A VDOE-selected quote from Christina Torres and Teaching Tolerance (a teaching Southern Poverty Law Center teaching initiative) from “All Students Need Anti-racism Education,” July 30, 2020,” puts CRT within the framework of all-pervasive racism.

Anti-Racism: Acknowledges that racist beliefs and structures are pervasive in all aspects of our lives and requires action to dismantle those beliefs and structures. This requires that school leaders hold educators and students accountable when they say and do things that make school unsafe, and that they dismantle systems perpetuating inequitable access to opportunity and outcomes for students historically marginalized by race.

On June 18, 2021, we read about Teaching Tolerance in the Elizabeth Schultz  post on Bacon’s Rebellion, “Yes, Virginia, There is Critical Race Theory in Our Schools.” Schultz describes the 2018 origins of “a statewide endeavor to create an ‘anti-racist and culturally-responsive’ curriculum.”

At that time [2018], Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) social studies coordinator, Colleen Eddy, identified that the work was intended to address the “overrepresentation of white and Eurocentric history” and the lack of “diverse perspectives in education.” The overhaul of the curriculum was done in collaboration with the framework created by Teaching Tolerance, an extension of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has since been re-monikered to “Learning for Justice.” The objective was to “examine materials, events, and institutions critically attending to power, position, and bias…”

Learning for Justice explains the name change on its website: “The fact is, tolerance is not justice. It isn’t a sufficient description of the work we do or of the world we want.”

Zarreta Hammond is another thought contributor to EdEquityVA. She has spent 25 years as a consultant who offers presentations and classes and sells a $399 Facilitator’s Resource kit for her 2014 book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching & THE BRAIN.” She claims that “culturally responsive teaching builds students’ brain power by improving information processing skills using cultural learning tools.” She emphasizes organizing “instructional activities around collectivist cultural principles — group harmony and interdependence,” and refers to the 1920’s “socio-cultural learning” concept of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934).

A 1997 University of Washington paper about Vygotsky said, “…for his era, literacy was the cutting issue to help assure the advance of the peasantry away from backward notions and toward more socially aware (hence Marxist) understandings of their place in history. These ties to the Marxist vision of a more just, classless society still ring with significance for many Russian educators today…”

And apparently, for proponents of Culturally Relevant Teaching in American K-12 schools as well. On her website, Hammond talks about the need for teachers “to recognize the cultural orientation we call collectivism.”

A key organizing principle of culturally responsive teaching is collectivism, Hammond says  – “a focus on group interdependence, harmony, and collaborative work.”

In the United States, the dominant culture is individualistic. We celebrate people who “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” We have a strong focus on competition and becoming the “top dog.” On the other hand, collectivism can be summed up in the African proverb, ‘I am because we are.’ … The culture of many African American, Latino, Pacific Islander, and Native American, and Asian communities leans more toward collectivism, also called communalism.”

Hammond studied at Berkeley, completing a degree at New York University with a major in English Literature and a Masters in Secondary Education with a Concentration in Writing Instruction at the University of Colorado. Although she claims she “draws on cutting-edge neuroscience research to offer an innovative approach for designing and implementing brain-compatible culturally responsive instruction,” she has no scientific background and offers no supporting references on her website other than Vygotsky.

Another contributor, Bettina Love, is the Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Education, Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia College of Education. She holds a Ph.D in Educational Policy Studies. Her webpage gives her CV and a research summary where the original CRT –Critical Race Theory – shows up.

My research, teaching, and service are focused on understanding, contextualizing, and deconstructing the formal and informal educational experiences of marginalized youth, be they queer, urban, African-American, female, male, or a unification of these identities. My work is informed by critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and Black feminism with an aim to create innovative pedagogical practices through the use of non-traditional educational curricula (e.g., Hip Hop-based education, critical media literacy, Hip Hop feminism, and popular culture).

In an article on Education Week, Love wrote:

White teachers need a particular type of therapy. They must learn how to deal with what Cheryl E. Matias calls “White emotionalities” and what Robin DiAngelo has termed “White fragility.” Emotions of guilt, shame, anger, denial, sadness, dissonance, and discomfort boil up when issues of race and racism challenge their sense of self.

Thus, we need therapists who specialize in the healing of teachers and the undoing of Whiteness in education. We need school therapists and counselors who are trained to help White educators and students process their emotions and their fragility. With healing, teachers will better manage their stress, improve their interactions with students, and be able to continue fighting for justice. Teachers should be offered this type of therapy free of charge.

New America, another EdEquityVa contributor, says on its Mission page:

We tell stories about what is happening and what is possible, to give Americans a window into what we are capable of achieving together and a vision of what a renewed America could and should be. New America is pioneering a new kind of think and action tank: a civic platform that connects a research institute, technology lab, solutions network, media hub and public forum. We generate big, bold ideas as templates for change….

African American, Latino, Pacific Islander, and Native American, Asian – in EdEquityVA, all talk of cultural responsiveness in one way. White teachers, students, and parents in all their cultural diversity have no place in EdEquityVA other than to confess their racism with anti-racist reflection. How then does Culturally Responsive Teaching interact with them?

How can teachers incorporate the multiplicity of “students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning”? Or will some be more equitable than others? Will patriotism be banned as an unsafe word? What about the Pledge of Allegiance?

How does Virginia – and the United States – survive the diversity/equity divisions highlighted in EdEquityVA?

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26 responses to “Changing Culture with the Other CRT”

  1. dick dyas Avatar
    dick dyas

    Destruction of this philosophy must commence immediately. Where to start?

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I am forwarding this to some teacher friends and will get back with their comments.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      First response – “clever weaving and total BS and not taught in the classroom”.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    If you learn only what your parents want you to learn, you’ll know only what your parents know.

  4. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    In a perverse way I’m excited to see how this shakes out. Unfortunately, and like always, the kids who can least afford the effects will bear the brunt of those effects.
    Get ready for white flight 2.0, along with the Asians this time.
    The country either needs to break down into more states or break apart into more of countries. The divide between those in the cities vs those in more rural areas is becoming too far to bridge.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    There are a number of teachers and retired teachers that frequent these pages. I’d sure like to hear from them on this.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    This is from a retired teacher of 34 years and wishes to remain anonymous.
    I’d be curious to know how Steve’s wife who is also an Education Professional view this.

    ” If people have concerns about VDOE’s EdEquity VA, they need to look at the document and see what it really says. In the appendix there is a multi-page audit tool. In education, we know that “what we care about is what we test for,” so looking at this audit’s questions gives a quick look at what is expected in school systems in Virginia. There are questions dealing with equity of opportunity for students by gender, by race/ethnicity and for students with disabilities. There are questions about narrowing the achievement gaps between groups. There is a section on monitoring enrollments in gifted and special education and discipline referrals for different groups “(race, language, (dis)ability).” Nothing particularly novel or radical here.

    What VDOE is promoting now is simply an outgrowth of what’s been promoted for many, many years: that education should be inclusive of everyone and should not discriminate against groups of students by gender, race, ethnicity, or disability.
    From the Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) website (bolded words mine):
    “Thirty years ago, when Teaching Tolerance was founded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, its goal was clear: eradicating hate by fighting intolerance in schools.
    … Together, we’re teaching the hard history of American slavery. We’re promoting policies that ensure queer students are safe on campus. We’re navigating critical conversations with young people about race, gender, class and more. We’re advocating for sanctuary schools where students and their families won’t be afraid of deportation. We’re offering guidance on procedures and policies to interrupt a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately removes Black, Latinx and Indigenous students from their classrooms, their families and their communities.”

    The information in Bova’s piece Changing Culture with the Other CRT on Zaretta Hammond implies that she advocates teaching communism. She doesn’t.
    In an interview with Education Week, she says: “Culturally responsive teaching is not just about motivating disengaged students. It’s about rebuilding trust with them through a learning partnership, using that rapport and trust to get permission from students to push them into their zone of proximal development. When students are in their ZPD, the brain responds by growing more neurons and dendrites – brainpower. With more brain power and cognitive routines they are able to do more rigorous work and build their background knowledge and deepen understanding.
    In a nutshell, culturally responsive teaching is about helping culturally and linguistically diverse students who have been marginalized in schools build their skill and capacity to do rigorous work. The focus isn’t on motivation but on improving their brainpower and information processing skills. Motivation is only a small part of it.”

    The quote in Bova’s piece from a Bacon’s Rebellion article by Schultz makes an issue of “The overhaul of the curriculum was done in collaboration with the framework created by Teaching Tolerance…” This comes across as intentionally inflammatory, but lacking in facts. Again, Teaching Tolerance has been around for 30 years. “The curriculum” in Virginia means the Standards of Learning (SOLs). All academic area SOLs are updated on a rotating basis every seven years. The History and Social Sciences SOLs were adopted most recently in 2015 and are currently under review for revision by November 2022. Rather than inflaming fears of what might be included in some radical revision, a responsible author’s response to the review process would require the effort to look at the current SOLs and the potential revisions as they are released. Then, if objectionable standards are found, to submit those concerns to VDOE and share them with the public with links to the actual standards at issue. Stirring up objections out of fears of what might be put in place is much easier, but not substantive or factual.

    Bova quotes from the New America website. It, and VDOE’s EdEquity, promote diverse points of view, but in no way advocate anti-white attitudes.

    There seems to be a confusion here: diversity does not equal anti-white! EdEquity and its contributors’ messages involve a “big tent” attitude – that all of us can succeed and prosper, and education should give the tools to do so to all children. Nothing here implies that improving opportunities for some depends on diminishing opportunities for some, though that seems to be the fear held by those who object to equity initiatives.”

    1. Of course improving opportunities and providing an effective education for all children is the goal. Read Matt Hurt’s post at describing how this can be done with children from any background.

      Maybe you don’t see the points in the EdEquityVA Webinar: Becoming an Anti-Racist Education Leader presented by Dr. Andrew Daire, Dean, VCU School of Education as anti-white. But his points on anti-racism are. Among them, he talks about “finding out how deep the rabbit hole of systemic racism and white supremacy goes.” “..the smog of white supremacy..”
      “The first principle is interrogating whiteness.”
      “U.S. was founded on white supremacy.”
      “Addressing white fragility is just the beginning.”

      It is clear from the discussion that this anti-racism is separate from diversity and inclusion, and more importantly, none of this addresses the educational needs of the children. Kendi’s idea that the only response to past discrimination is present and future discrimination is not acceptable, and this kind of anti-racism is a key component of EdEquityVa.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Totally agree with Matt Hurt and actually wouldn’t mind hearing from him on this issue.

        Yep I saw the points and yes I have some concerns but teacher #1 says this is way overblown and just not the case in the schools themselves.

        The point has been all along to help all kids achieve their potential, no matter their circumstances.

        I’m starting to get a whiff of gaslighting.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          CWT? Why is Critical Whiteness Theory ignored? What is CWT? (Actually, CWS [studies])

          “Culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy (CR/RP) was an essential compo- nent in the development of the literacy methods courses grounded in theories of critical race and whiteness studies. CR/RP puts critical theories into action, focusing on what teachers actually do (Ladson-Billings, 2013)…”

        2. Matt Hurt Avatar

          Larry, I have sat through many of those culturally responsive webinars, and while there were some statements made that would certainly be viewed as “problematic” to about half of the commonwealth, the overall gist is just what NN said below- to become more culturally responsive in order to better understand where kids are coming from. This is very important, because unless teachers develop those relationships with the kids, not a lot positive can happen in the classroom.

          That being said, I strongly believe that the effects of the VDOE strategy of providing this training will be the similar to the effects of a fart in a whirlwind. The biggest bias that I see that needs to be overcome is the bias associated with expectations. When the expectations are different, how can the outcomes not be different.

          To say it another way, our teachers and administrators in the Commonwealth get into the business typically because they want to help kids (it’s sure isn’t because of the pay). When these folks see certain subgroups of kids flailing, one response is to lower the expectation by giving them easier work (read that below grade level work), providing extra credit opportunities not based on mastering the content, and other such means by which to help them avoid poor grades. The way I know that is because when I look at data from divisions, the lower the subgroup SOL scores, the greater the gap in the distribution of grades and SOL proficiencies.

          While I don’t believe the culturally responsive training is not in itself harmful, it will not correlate well with improvements in the desired outcomes, because it does not address the key issue- having high expectations for all. In fact, I suspect that this training will actually make this problem worse. By highlighting the historical hardships of certain groups of students, and showing how they don’t have the capacity to improve their lot without folks really addressing the cultural issues, it will be harder for folks to apply the same level of expectations. They’ll be more afraid that these kids won’t be able to success because of the historical hardships they have endured.

          This whole topic is simply a culture war issue, on both sides of the fence. I sincerely don’t believe that it is detrimental in the way that many folks describe it, and I don’t for a minute think that if everyone opens their hearts to these notions that anything will improve for our students. This is just a distraction to our job at hand- ensuring every student can meet at least the minimum standards set forth by the Virginia Board of Education (and by the way, these standards are lower now that they were 3 years ago). This is a fairly low bar, but because everyone is talking past one another, we’ll never be able to achieve it without some adult standing up and applying real leadership.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Thank you Matt. As usual, you offer intelligent commentary that gets us past sound bites and simplistic thinking.

            You got me going on the “low expectations” issue and how District 7 is dealing with it.

            In some discussions with some teacher friends, I have asked how it can be that one school in a school district can have high expectations and another school in that same district has low expectations and how that plays with principles and teachers.

            I also found some articles, that you may or may not wish to read and comment on.




          2. Matt Hurt Avatar

            I think the main theme in these articles (I couldn’t access the NYT- didn’t wish to pay for it) is that if an organization makes a deliberate choice to achieve something, and makes that something the overarching priority (to the exclusion of other things), and they approach that something in a smart manner (by doing things that actually move the measurement needle), then that organization can make improvements. Typically, organizations can do one thing really well, or multiple things poorly.

            If we (collectively) really wanted to eliminate the subgroup proficiency gaps in Virginia there’s no doubt we could achieve that. However, there is either a lack of leadership or political will to make that happen- too many other priorities.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            Here’s the article:

            “Thank God for Mississippi.”

            That’s a phrase people would use when national education rankings came out because no matter how poorly your state performed, you could be sure things were worse in Mississippi.

            Not anymore. New results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test given every two years to measure fourth- and eighth-grade achievement in reading and math, show that Mississippi made more progress than any other state.

            The state’s performance in reading was especially notable. Mississippi was the only state in the nation to post significant gains on the fourth-grade reading test. Fourth graders in Mississippi are now on par with the national average, reading as well or better than pupils in California, Texas, Michigan and 18 other states.

            What’s up in Mississippi? There’s no way to know for sure what causes increases in test scores, but Mississippi has been doing something notable: making sure all of its teachers understand the science of reading.

            Yes, there is a science to how people read. For the past several decades, in labs and classrooms all over the world, scientists have been studying how skilled reading works, what children need to learn to become skilled readers, and what’s going on when students struggle. Reading is probably the most studied aspect of human learning.

            But a lot of teachers don’t know this science. In 2013, legislators in Mississippi provided funding to start training the state’s teachers in the science of reading.

            To understand what the science says, a good place to start is with something called the “simple view of reading.” It’s a model that was first proposed by researchers in 1986 to clarify the role of decoding in reading comprehension. Everyone agrees the goal of reading is to comprehend text, but back in the 1980s there was a big fight going on over whether children should be taught how to decode words — in other words, phonics.

            The simple view says that reading comprehension is the product of two things. One is your ability to decode words: Can you identify the word a string of letters represents? For example, you see the letter string “l-a-s-s” and you are able to sound it out and say the word.

            You may have no idea what “lass” means. This is where language comprehension comes in. Language comprehension is your ability to understand spoken language. So, when someone says to you, “Let’s have all the lads and lasses line up at the door,” you know that’s what all the boys and girls are supposed to do.

            decoding ability x language comprehension = reading comprehension

            Notice that reading comprehension is the product of decoding ability and language comprehension; it’s not the sum. In other words, if you have good language comprehension skills but zero decoding skills, your reading comprehension will be zero, because zero times anything is zero. The simple view also says that if you have good decoding skills but poor language comprehension skills, your reading comprehension isn’t going to be very good either.

            The simple view model was proposed more than 30 years ago and has been confirmed over and over again by research. But a study in Mississippi several years ago showed that teachers were not being trained to use this model and that many professors and deans in colleges of education had never even heard of it. Now, through workshops and coaching paid for by state taxpayers, teachers in Mississippi are learning about the simple view and other key takeaways from the science of reading.

            The simple view is critical for understanding how children learn to read. Most children entering school have very little decoding skill. They know the meaning of lots of words, but they don’t know how to decode those words. If the goal is to get to reading comprehension, children have to learn how to decode. That’s why people who know the science of reading call for an emphasis on phonics instruction in the early grades.

            Now, the simple view clearly shows that focusing only on decoding would be a mistake because that’s only half the equation. Reading instruction has to include language comprehension, too. This means lessons and activities that expand children’s oral vocabularies and knowledge, so they know the meaning of the words they can decode.

            In my reporting on the debates about reading, I’ve found there’s a lot of confusion in schools about the role of decoding in learning how to read. Teachers want their students to love reading, and phonics has a reputation for being rote and boring.

            So, reading instruction tends to begin with having children focus on making meaning from text while giving short shrift to helping them develop the skills involved in reading words. Some children develop good word reading skills anyway. Research suggests that about 40 percent of children will learn to read no matter how inadequate the instruction.

            What about the other 60 percent? The lack of skills instruction can be a disaster for them, especially for pupils from low-income families. When children from higher-income homes struggle to read, their parents will often pay for tutoring or specialized private school. But children from poor families tend to have no backup if schools don’t teach them how to read words.

            And while children from poor families often enter school at a disadvantage when it comes to language comprehension, if they’re taught how to decode they’ve just been given their best shot at catching up because now they have the means to gain knowledge and expand their vocabulary through reading.

            For years, everyone assumed Mississippi was at the bottom in reading because it was the poorest state in the nation. Mississippi is still the poorest state, but fourth graders there now read at the national average. While every other state’s fourth graders made no significant progress in reading on this year’s test, or lost ground, Mississippi’s fourth-grade reading scores are up by 10 points since 2013, when the state began the effort to train its teachers in the science of reading. Correlation isn’t causation, but Mississippi has made a huge investment in helping teachers learn the science behind reading.

            And when children are taught in ways that line up with the science, they can learn.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “Culturally Responsive Teaching builds on the common-sense idea that teachers should take into account students’ cultural background and experiences when interacting with them.” — CJBova

      Okay. And that’s her problem? What’s next, the Calculus? More than any other subject in K12, the Calculus has led to the destruction of widely held Christian and American cultural beliefs that the world is flat, and that God created it as the centerpiece of the Universe by revolving all other heavenly bodies about it. Damn you Copernicus!

      Other CRT?

      1. That’s not where the thought ended. It continues, “But the Road Map doesn’t stop there. A VDOE-selected quote from
        Christina Torres and Teaching Tolerance (a teaching Southern Poverty Law
        Center teaching initiative) from “All Students Need Anti-racism
        Education,” July 30, 2020,” puts CRT within the framework of
        all-pervasive racism.”
        And then comes the anti-racism shaming and blaming. Children, and teachers, don’t need that to accept and respect each other.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Good. Germans were forced to visit concentration camps. White people in America get married at plantations.

          Let me tell you a joke. “What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing. You already told her twice.” Feel a little outrage? You should. By group, white women are treated not much better than people of color. Women of color? Last in the barrel.

          If YOU ever held a job, you were underpaid. Your outcomes in court, e.g., divorce are less than a man. Women traveling alone were more likely to get bumped from overbooked flights. Men had places to be.

          You’ve come a long ways, Baby, but you still ain’t arrived.

          Now, given all that, do you think men should be, oh I don’t know, taught to respect women as equals. Where should we do this? K12? What should we teach? How about the history of suffragettes, codified sexism? Do we whitewash it?

          “The phrase critical feminist theory evokes multiple theories and meanings. In some usages, the term critical modifies feminist theory, suggesting that all feminist theory criticizes the misogynistic view of women that characterizes society. … These theories push feminist theory to recognize a deeper radicalism.”

          Sauce for the gander…

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            To me, at least some of the anti-CRT walks and talks like the latest evolution of Conservatives/GOP “Southern Strategy” IMHO.

            Dog Whistles and boogeyman politics, the tried and true way to rile up the Conservative base – and it does obviously work even today and if it draws in some independents and turns elections, SUPER!


          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Absolutely. And small bacon bits of the Southern Strategy are found in a column near you. I have noticed they no longer red bait CRT by declariing it Marxist though. Small favors.

            Like virginity, “government of, by, and for the people” is like a bubble in the foam of life. One prick and it’s gone.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            I love the way some weave in the idea that “some” cultures are more “independent” and “self-reliant” than others – it’s just in their genes and heritage – PC and works much better than the old adages of some cultures just being shiftless and lazy.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Yes, they’re not inferior, it’s just we’re so superior. Uh…

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Critical Racist Theory? Teaching people about what was, and is still, done to them pisses them off, so make it illegal to teach them. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      To a certain extent, the most reactive of those who accuse “indoctrination” of CRT, DO seem to argue that teaching the history of racism as well as modern-day issues that still affect people of color is – “divisive” – like George Floyd and BLM did not happen or should not have happened.

      I am OPPOSED to ANY “training” that purports that white people should admit they are racists are anything like that.

      But the rest of the anti-CRT issue smacks of a modern form of White Supremacy – IMHO.

      And, yes, it has “legs” among voters – just as historic efforts to implement busing did and even affirmative action.

  8. Read Hans Bader Oct. 8

    “The NSBA letter contains blatant falsehoods. For example, it claims that “critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class.” In reality, 20% of urban school teachers have taught or discussed critical race theory with their K-12 students, along with 8% of teachers nationally, according to a survey by Education Week. These percentages are even higher in high schools, where books by critical race theorists are much more likely to be assigned to students than in elementary schools. Loudoun County public schools paid a contractor to train their staff in critical race theory, giving it $3,125 to conduct “Critical Race Theory Development.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Do you know how many teachers were surveyed in the Ed Week poll and what states or was it nationwide?

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