One of the several reasons that Americans ought to be concerned about the inroads being made by Critical Theory (e.g., Critical Race Theory, Critical Legal Theory) into American life is its fundamentally anti-American view of free speech. Rod Dreher highlights the latest example of such suppression of free speech in a policy proposed by the Loudoun (VA) County School District. They have spent more than $400,000 implanting a program and curriculum, using tax dollars, to teach Critical Race Theory to public schools in the district. What is “Critical Theory”? According to Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, “A critical theory is chiefly concerned with revealing hidden biases and underexamined assumptions, usually by pointing out what have been termed ‘problematics,’ with are ways in which society and the systems that it operates upon are going wrong.”1
Like conspiracy theory, critical theory knows that someone, somewhere is doing something to harm them. Under critical theory, the world is composed of two classes, the oppressor and the oppressed. In Critical Race Theory, the doctrine being imposed in Loudoun County, VA, the critical theorists know a priori that white people, by virtue of being white, are racist. The irony of convicting, without evidence, an entire class of the sin of racism, does not seem to have occurred to them. This is a radical redefinition of the noun racism. The redefinition of racism means that anti-racism does not mean what it used to mean. This is not the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. This is much more radical movement altogether. On this problem see the resources below.
Another great problem with this movement is that it is impervious to facts. Indeed, any appeal to facts in response to CRT is deemed evidence of racism. In this, arguing with proponents of CRT is like arguing with conspiracy theorists: any dissent is taken as evidence that the dissenter is part of the conspiracy (or, in this case) racist oppression. The only way to show that one is not a “racist” is to submit and agree.
This is what is under discussion when people talk about “the narrative.” The fatally flawed “1619 Project” is a terrific example of narrative triumphing over facts. Professional historians have denounced the project as “tendentious,” “preposterous,” and ignorant (see resources below). Academics rarely use these sorts of adjectives so when they do it is intended to be splash of cold water to the face. Michael Walsh explains:
The crucial importance of narrative to the leftist project cannot be overstated. Storytelling—or a form of it in which old themes are mined and twisted—sits at the center of everything the Left does. Leftists are fueled by a belief that in the modern world, it does not so much matter what the facts are, as long as the story is well told. Living in a malevolent, upside-down fantasy world, they would rather heed their hearts than their minds, their impulses than their senses; the gulf between empirical reality and their ideology-infused daydreams regularly shocks and surprises them, even as it discomforts or kills millions who suffer the consequences of their delusions.2
Proponents of “the narrative” i.e., Critical Theory, know before they ever get to any particular situation or particular facts, what the conclusion must be. The only thing to be determined is: who are the oppressors and who are the oppressed. For CRT simply substitute “racists” for oppressors.
It is in this light that American taxpayers (e.g., property owners) should pay attention to public school policies such as those proposed in Loudoun County, VA. E.g., ”As public employees, it is important that employees are mindful of the potential impact of their behaviors and actions that occur outside of their job responsibilities and work hours.” One application of this seemingly innocuous principle, however, should alarm civil libertarians:
Employees are expected to support the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices through the performance of their job duties, as the Division engages in the disruption and dismantling of white supremacy, systemic racism, and language and actions motivated by race, religion, country of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or ability.
Two things to be noted here. First, employees are expected to affirm as a given the existence of “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.” Now, given the history of Virginia, there might be a plain sense of “white supremacy,” e.g., the Klu Klux Klan. After all, a Virginia man, identified as a leader in the KKK, was recently sentenced to prison for driving into a protest. This, however, is not what they mean. White supremacy has been re-defined under Critical Theory, to include “defensiveness”—in other words, if you deny being a racist, that means you are a racist—“perfectionism,” a “sense of urgency,” “worship of the written word,” “individualism,” etc. This is not a parody. These sorts of lists are commonplace. This list is from the official State of Texas website. Second, this is a standard for employment. In other words, those who do not meet this standard may be subject to being fired.
Among the behaviors not permitted under these proposed standards that to be regarded as
harassing or discriminatory comments or conduct including speech other telephone, or electronic, or social media communication that:..can reasonably be interpreted as discriminatory, racially or ethnically derogatory, defamatory, or as undermining the views, positions, goals, policies or public statements of the Loudoun County School Board or its Superintendent when such comments or conduct create the reasonable apprehension of a disruption or disrupt the operations or efficiency of LCPS.
In case there is any ambiguity, the district clarifies that prohibited speech includes any
comments or actions that are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices, and which impact an individual’s ability to perform their job responsibilities or create a breach in the trust bestowed upon them as an employee of the school division. This includes on-campus and off-campus speech, social media posts, and any other telephonic or electronic communication.
As the West Nova News notes,
The policy acknowledges that employees have a “First Amendment right to engage in protected speech” but says it “may be outweighed” by LCPS interest in “promoting internal..and external community harmony and peace” and achieving Williams’ “directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”
The effect of this is to say to employees of the district, e.g., teachers and others, that they had better watch what they say on Facebook and/or Twitter or they will be looking for work soon. This is classic CRT rhetoric in which “the narrative” (Critical Theory) trumps even the Bill of Rights. The triumph of the Critical Theory narrative over facts, history, and Constitutional Protections is widespread. I searched “white supremacy” and “linear thinking” (another bogeyman for Critical Theory) and a number of .gov sites came up. This is the stuff that the president’s recent executive order was intended to remove but it may well be that your school district is relying on Critical Theory and implementing it. This is yet another reason why it is reasonable to leave the public schools (for more on this see the resources below).
The first amendment to the Bill of Rights says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
It is true that the Loudoun County School District is not the Congress but the Court has long held that no governmental entity can transgress these limits. The Bill of Rights applies to states, counties, and cities, and even to school districts.
© R. Scott Clark 2020. All Rights Reserved.
- How To Subscribe To Heidelmedia
- Resources On Political Correctness And Free Speech
- Trueman: The Goal Of Critical Theory Is The Destruction Of Transcendent Truth
- CRT Indoctrination Reminds Former Intelligence Analyst Of Communist Brainwashing Technique
- Conspiracy Theories Are Bunk
- Houston, We Do Have A Problem
- Contra Favoritism: James’ Response To Injustice In The Church As A Model For Our Response To Racism
- Resources On Social Justice And Racism
- Princeton Historian Rebukes 1619 Project: The Facts Still Matter
- Oxford Historian Carwardine: 1619 Project “Preposterous” And “Tendentious”
- Guelzo: “The 1619 Project Is Not History; It Is Ignorance“
- NAS Calls On Pulitzer to Remove Prize for 1619 Project
- Proposed Loudoun County Speech Restrictions
- Rod Dreher: Schooling for Totalitarianism
- More Reasons To Leave The Public School (Or Antiracism Does Not Mean What You Might Think)
- Why It Is Reasonable Not To Send Your Children To Public School
- Christopher Rufo on CRT in Seattle
- Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity and Why This Harms Everybody (Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2020), 13–14.
- Michael Walsh, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West (New York: Encounter Books, 2015), ch.2.