It has become a political football, a controversial concept state lawmakers have tried to ban from classrooms, a phrase that is as frequently used as it is misunderstood.
But is critical race theory actually taught in schools?
For the most part, no, suggest the results of the EdWeek Research Center’s latest monthly educator survey, which was administered June 30 to July 12.
Just 8 percent of teachers say they have taught or even discussed critical race theory with their K-12 students.
Urban teachers are significantly more likely to have addressed the theory. Twenty percent say they’ve discussed or taught the theory with students, compared with 6 percent of teachers in suburban areas and rural communities or towns.
Teachers nationwide said K-12 schools are not requiring or pushing them to teach critical race theory, and most said they were opposed to adding the academic approach to their course instruction, according to a survey obtained by NBC News.
Despite a roiling culture war that has blown up at school board meetings and led to new legislation in statehouses across the country, the responses from more than 1,100 teachers across the country to a survey conducted by the Association of American Educators, a nonpartisan professional group for educators, appeared to suggest that the panicked dialogue on critical race theory made by lawmakers and the media does not reflect the reality of American classrooms.
“We’re saying, ‘What is the fuss about?’” said Lynn Daniel, a ninth-grade English teacher in the Phoenix area. “We don’t get it. This objection is being pushed upon us, and it’s not even happening in our classes. I don’t understand it.”
The association surveyed its professional membership between June 24 and June 29 and received 1,134 completed responses, nearly 900 of them from traditional public schools. More than 96 percent said their schools did not require them to teach critical race theory, and only 45 percent said that teachers should have the option to add it to their lesson plans.
Critical race theory is an academic study at the undergraduate and graduate level that aims to examine the role of racism in the modern era and the ways it has become woven into the social fabric. Academics in the field argue the U.S. has institutionalized a racial caste system.
Increasingly it has also become an amorphous, catch-all term used by the conservative movement as fodder for political debate. In the past month, Republican-controlled legislatures in 22 states have proposed legislation to limit the teaching of concepts of racial equity and white privilege under the umbrella of “critical race theory.” Five states — Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee — have signed bills banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.