Comedian John Oliver delved into the debate over critical race theory in the American educational system on his show "Last Week Tonight," essentially taking the opportunity to slam parents, politicians, and anyone who doesn't like children being taught racist ideas and ideologies. He slammed education activist Christopher Rufo for daring to point out that teaching white men to hate themselves isn't exactly a great use of taxpayer dollars, or of corporate time.
In Oliver's view, the problem with the opposition to critical race theory is that it is in service to the concept of school choice, and for that he chooses to paint Christopher Rufo as the bogeyman.
School choice would allow parents to be able to choose where to spend their educational tax dollars, whether that be in public schools, private, parochial, charter, or home schools. In his view, parents should not have the option of where to send their kids to school unless they are already wealthy and able to afford private school in addition to paying their taxes to fund public school.
Oliver complained that the concerns about critical race theory is nothing more than "noise," before showing parents who have spoken up at school board meetings over the past year to demand that this curriculum be removed from classrooms.
A thread from Andrew Follett goes into even more detail. Oliver's claims about Loudon County, Virg. schools are entirely wrong. He lashes out at parents who spoke up for this kids, forgetting entirely that this is the school district that covered up the rape of a girl in a bathroom, as well as where the school board made an "enemies list" of parents.
After complaining about parents, Oliver attempted to give an explainer about what critical race theory is. Critical race theory, the idea that all events both current and historical need to be looked at through the lens of race and racism, Oliver explained, is "the name given to a body of legal scholarship that began in the 1970s, that attempted to understand why racism and inequality persisted after the Civil Rights Movement. The core idea is that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something that is embedded in legal systems and policies," Oliver quoted from Education Week.
Oliver claimed that parents are wrong when they say that the way critical race theory is implemented in school curriculum posits that some races are superior to others, or teaches students to hate America. But what he misses is that when this elaborate grad school theory of law and legality is dumbed down for kids, that's exactly what happens.
Yet Oliver jumps on the bandwagon of people who claim this is simply not happening, denying the decades worth of books and publications written by educators and education scholars as to how to incorporate elements of critical race theory in lesson plans, and how to use it to back up curriculum on race, racism, and American values.
"Critical race theory just says 'let's pay attention,'" Kimberle Crenshaw said, as aired by Oliver, "to what has happened in this country and how what's happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes so we can become that country that we say we are. So critical race theory is not anti-patriotic, in fact, it is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it, because we believe in the 13th and the 14th and the 15th amendment. We believe in the promises of equality, and we know we can't get there if we can't confront and talk honestly about inequality."
"Yeah," Oliver said. "To be clear," he went on to say, "CRT is graduate level theory," joking that 5-year-old are not reading Kimberle Crenshaw. He did not note, however, that they are likely reading Ibram X. Kendi's board book Antiracist Baby, which doesn't teach critical race theory to 5-year-olds, but is the implementation of critical race theory on children's education.
Oliver addresses concerns that critical race theory is being used to back curriculum, and takes specific aim at conservative Christopher Rufo, who opposed critical race theory training for adults as well as children, but specifically at the federal level. He exposed corporations such as Sandia Labs, a top nuclear research facility, for holding training sessions specifically for white men to learn about how awful white men are. But for Oliver, there's nothing wrong with that.
Rufo said, as Oliver quoted, that critical race theory "has become the default ideology of the public school system." Oliver thinks this is impossible, given that he's already "proven" that it is not in the public educational system, and continues to play for laughs, which is his entire job—not to try to give information about what is or isn't happening in American schools.
And he doesn't like that Rufo has intentionally made the concept of critical race theory synonymous with racist, negative teaching. "I am not saying discussing race in a classroom is easy or always done well," Oliver said, noting that experts are also aware of that. His view is that while race and racism need to be part of lessons in the classroom, it's okay if teachers do a bad job of it.
Oliver praises teachers for basically doing anything at all, and says that when teachers "do it right," they "tell the story to the present day, which kids want and need." He touts the "supportive, educational environment" for having these conversations, rather than having them with families at home.
The agenda behind the push against critical race theory, Oliver says, is school choice, and by Oliver's view, parents and kids should be trapped in failing schools.
"Conservative organizations that have long pushed for school choice," Oliver said, listing off a few, "have poured money into this fight." For Oliver, the whole thing is just a racial panic designed to help parents get their kids out of public schools that are failing kids, families, and the nation.
He doesn't even note that there is support for school choice across racial lines. It turns out that parents, no matter what their race, want what's best for their kids, and will fight for their children no matter what the party line.
Oliver falls into the same trap as so many elitist media personalities who assume that any view that is contrary to the progressive line is simply wrong. In this case, Oliver simply doesn't know what he's talking about. Perhaps he should ask the diverse group of parents across the country who are fighting for their kids to be educated, not indoctrinated.
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