In New Jersey, evasive wording is being used to push back against descriptions of their new legally required curriculum as “critical race theory”. Whatever you call it probably doesn’t matter, word games won’t change anything and whatever it is many parents and teachers seem to be against it. The new New Jersey Student Learning Standards will start in kindergarten and end when the child graduates high school.
New Jersey says these new rules are not about teaching critical race theory in K-12. The state points to P.L. 2021, c.32 which talks about a state curriculum that is to include instruction on diversity and inclusion. The beginning of the statute is quite clear: Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, each school district shall incorporate instruction on diversity and inclusion in an appropriate place in the curriculum of students in grades kindergarten through 12 as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. The statute then goes on to explain what classroom instruction will entail.
b. The instruction shall: (1) highlight and promote diversity, including economic diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance, and belonging in connection with gender and sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, disabilities, and religious tolerance; (2) examine the impact that unconscious bias and economic disparities have at both an individual level and on society as a whole; and (3) encourage safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, mental and physical disabilities, and religious beliefs.
The above slide was part of a New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) presentation whose intention was to first address the statute, which was passed on March 1, 2021, and then to set the record straight on critical race theory. As the slides note in their disclaimer, the presentation’s intent was as a summary of the New Jersey law only and not something to glean legal advice from. These slides, though, caught the attention of a woman with the Twitter handle, insomnochick free-speech-winger, who also is the host of a YouTube channel The Reason We Learn. She was definitely calling the presentation as she saw it.
“It’s official: CRT is now mandatory in NJ schools,” is what she tweeted. Insomnochick then went on to state that critical race theory is coming soon to the New Jersey school districts. She explained in a series of tweets how New Jersey will be teaching critical race theory in schools. She feels New Jersey parents are being “gaslit.” She says that “all of this “equity” nonsense is based on a lie: the fixed-pie fallacy, which isn’t even a theory, it’s a falsehood.”
Back to the NJPSA slide presentation itself, they did venture into what they felt were possible legal issues. Some included parents wishing to opt-out their child from these discussions. Another was teachers refusing to implement the curriculum based on religious or moral grounds. One more was board members trying to block the curriculum.
But as the presentation pointed out shortly thereafter, by New Jersey law, school districts were now legally obligated to present the material. Although it wasn’t to be called critical race theory, the descriptions of what was to be taught begged to differ. But first, their legal duty of care.
Next came a Q & A and with that the first slide to address critical race theory by its name. The slide gives a limited textbook definition of what critical race theory is, then explains its basic tenets. From there, the New Jersey presentation defines many aspects of critical race theory to include culturally responsive teaching, a “CRT” many feels is simply another way of getting critical race theory into schools.
The presentation then laid out a number of scenarios that could possibly be seen by teachers that include parents who are not happy with the New Jersey critical race theory being taught. These scenarios are followed by “Best Practices” on how to handle those specific situations. Finally, “Talking Points” are included to help teachers deal with parents who are not on board with the classroom curriculum.
Insomnochick sums up her feelings behind the New Jersey critical race theory law by tweeting: “Put simply: even if you agree with these pages, this is NOT the role of the public school. This is NOT appropriate for children, nor is it helpful in any respect.” The truth is that it doesn’t matter what you call it. There are many parents opposed to these ideologies. But, there are nearly as many in support of them. Only one group will get their way, at least in public schools.