Is Culturally Responsive Teaching Just A Rebrand Of Critical Race Theory?

But there is another CRT out there. One that is said to encompass student culture, language, and life experiences. It’s called Culturally Responsive Teaching and it has parents wondering if it is a simple rebranding of Critical Race Theory or if it actually teaches what it claims to be preaching. We have the facts you need to know.

By John Keating | Published

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critical race theory culturally responsive teaching

For some time now, Critical Race Theory has been the hot button topic amongst many school districts across the country. Its divisive teachings have sent shockwaves throughout communities as many feel its racial ways are not what kids should be learning. But there is another CRT out there. One that is said to encompass student culture, language, and life experiences. It’s called Culturally Responsive Teaching and it has parents wondering if it is a simple rebranding of Critical Race Theory or if it actually teaches what it claims to be preaching. We have the facts you need to know.


To get to the new CRT, we must first take a look at the other CRT to understand how we got here. Critical Race Theory was never intended to end up being taught in K-12 classrooms. CRT was developed in the 1970s as a way to address the inequities seen in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. Derrick Albert Bell Jr. is often cited as the originator of CRT musings. As a respected Harvard professor, Bell took a deeper look at many of the civil rights he legislated in the 1960s. It was here that Bell’s reassessment of his work became the “cornerstone of critical race theory.”

As the years passed, more scholars took Bell’s lead and gave further voice to critical race theory. It began to pop up in colleges, classes designed to shed further light on how racism has shaped U.S. law. That was the intent until it wasn’t.

Today, critical race theory has evolved into something much more. Instead of focusing on the racial aspects surrounding the law in the U.S., it has gone on to things like white privilege, white supremacy, equity, and any other thing that separates us by race. CRT today positions white people as the boogeyman and they need to have it pointed out just how bad they are. At least, this is what many people think about CRT.

So, where does Culturally Responsive Teaching come into play? Yes, Culturally Responsive Teaching and Critical Race Theory share the same acronym, but is that all they share? Some say it is, but there are others who are concerned that Culturally Responsive Teaching is Critical Race Theory in disguise.


Proponents of Culturally Responsive Teaching claim it is an approach to teaching that is research-based. By that, what students learn in school is connected to their cultures, the languages they speak, and their life experiences. These connections between the classroom and life are meant to help students gain access to tougher curricula as well as help them to develop higher-level academic skills.

As some have noted, the thought behind it is commendable. Bringing a student’s background into the classroom to show them their worth. But here is where it gets sticky and where claims of this teaching simply being used as a mask forCritical Race Theory….

While the intent is that Culturally Responsive Teaching “values and reflects the assets of all students,” those who teach with this style also make it a point that students of color, English language learners (ELLs), and other underserved student populations, always seem to grab the short end of the stick. From here, the focus again becomes entirely race-related.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, an American pedagogical theorist and teacher educator, introduced the concepts of Culturally Responsive Teaching. Ladson-Billings, a Black woman, felt that integrating students’ cultural references into classrooms would help maximize their academic achievements. Ladson-Billings, along with others such as Sonia Nieto and Geneva Gay, saw the importance of Culturally Responsive Teaching for various reasons.

To those scholars, Culturally Responsive Teaching will raise expectations for all students. It takes their mindset away from what they can’t do and firmly focuses on what they can do. It will also help build cultural competence. By this, they mean an inclusive curriculum will help both teacher and student understand there are different perspectives, different walks of life, different ideals, and there is nothing wrong with these differences. Finally, they believe Culturally Responsive Teaching will help students feel their value. If a student sees themselves in the school curriculum, they see representation. They then feel like they belong.


The fight to keep Critical Race Theory out of schools is ongoing. State leaders have begun to introduce bills that will ban any sort of divisive teaching. Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, is leading the hard charge and has many following in his footsteps.

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As for Culturally Responsive Teaching, parents and lawmakers are keeping a close eye on it. There are many who are in the corner of the new CRT, saying it does what the original CRT was meant to do. It allows students to feel included. It allows students to feel pride in who they are, regardless of race, sex, or gender identity.

Opponents are quick to point out that while the intentions are good, this method once again seperates students by race and beliefs. Maybe Culturally Responsive Teaching has a place in schools. Maybe it doesn’t. As a parent, though, you need to understand what’s actually being taught before you can decide if it’s a good idea.

Slapping a different name on something doesn’t make it a different thing. So what’s the truth? Are Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching the same thing? Proponents of the two ideologies may like to play word games, but in the end they do indeed seem to be rooted in the very same things. In fact even supporters who claim they are different, often end up using the two names interchangeably. Both CRTs are indeed, CRT. It seems true that Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching are similar not just in name, but in application and intent.