Educators Play Semantic Games to Befuddle Voters

Scott Ziegler: It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

by James A. Bacon

Under assault from irate parents, Northern Virginia educators have been at pains to say that they do not teach Critical Race Theory to students.

At a school board meeting earlier this month, interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler repeatedly denied instructing students in the controversial theory, which posits among other things that all Whites are racist (although some can strive to be “allies”) and that society’s institutions, designed by Whites for Whites, constitute a form of systemic or structural racism.

According to The Washington Post, School Board Chair Brenda Sheridan asked Zeigler point blank: “When you are asked, ‘Is Loudoun County Public Schools teaching critical race theory?’ what is the answer?”

“The short answer is that we are not teaching critical race theory to our students,” Ziegler said, calling the theory “a subject for academics.”

Arthur Purves with the Fairfax County Taxpayers Association got a similar answer when addressing Michelle Godart, executive administrative assistant to Sloan J. Presidio, assistant superintendent with Fairfax County Public Schools. When he asked, “Do [Fairfax schools] Critical Race Theory,” her answer was succinct: “FCPS does not teach Critical Race Theory in our schools.”

Invoking the phrase Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, educators say they are working to advance “racial equity” and combat the systemic racism that is holding back Black and Hispanic students. But teaching “critical race theory?” to students. No, they don’t do that.

This is pure prevarication. defines critical race theory (CRT) as an intellectual movement with its roots in 1960s and ’70s academic theory arising out of the critical legal studies movement (CSL), which examined how legal institutions served the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. CSL itself was an offshoot of Marxist-oriented critical theory. So, yes, it is likely accurate to say that Loudoun and Fairfax schools do not teach this abstract academic discipline to its students.

However, Critical Race Theory has put an indelible stamp on thinking about race in the United States. There is no central committee that defines the tenets of CRT, but its language — “white supremacy,” “systemic racism,” and “white privilege” — and its conceptual framework are ubiquitous. 

One of the most influential popularizers of CRT is Ibram Kendi, author of best-selling books, “Stamped from the Beginning” and “How to Be an Antiracist.” As it happens, Fairfax Schools paid Kendi $20,000 to address an estimated 1,500 school employees at an August t, 2020, virtual event on the topic, “Cultivating an Anti-racist School Community.”

So, Critical Race Theory isn’t being taught to students — teachers and staff are being trained in key concepts of the doctrine, and they can pass the concepts on to students.

Purves also has obtained documentation that Fairfax Schools have spent $41,000 to purchase 2,000 of Kendi’s books, including 400 for Glasgow Middle School and 675 for Oakton High school. Wow, that’s a lot of books for just teachers and staff. Who are they handing them out to? The cafeteria staff and school bus drivers?

Purves asked Godart, if Fairfax schools don’t teach Critical Race Theory, then why did it spend $61,000 for a Kendi speech and books. She did not reply.

There’s an election coming up, and thousands of Northern Virginia parents are angry about what their children are being exposed to — whatever you want to call it. Last election, Democrats managed to make state and local elections a referendum on President Trump. This year, Trump is gone. Republican candidates for the Senate, House and statewide office have made “anti-racism” — perhaps more appropriately termed “reverse racism” — a potent campaign issue. School officials are playing semantic games to create the impression that there’s no CRT to see here, move along now.

They don’t teach CRT to students — just to staff and teachers.

They don’t instruct anyone in the Marxist origins of critical theory — they just give seminars and hold discussion groups about white supremacy and systemic racism.

It reminds me of Virginia Superintendent of Instruction James Lane swearing up and down that Virginia’s proposed new math pathway will not eliminate “advanced” classes or “accelerated” classes while carefully avoiding any mention of “tracked” classes.

The educrats aren’t telling lies (mistruths). They’re just dodging, weaving, dissembling, and prevaricating until the November elections in the hope they can keep the public confused enough to retain Democratic control of the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion.

Update: Now there is controversy in Chesterfield County over “critical race theory” in schools. According to the Chesterfield Observer, School Board Chairman Ryan Harter says the board does not support critical race theory and CRT is not part of the local school system’s approved curriculum.