The current debates about appropriate curriculum and constitutional boundaries inside the classroom are nothing less than a fight for the soul of the educational system in the United States. As Anya Kamenetz, explained in her New York Times essay, the public school system as we know it today was designed as a public good, an inclusive and diverse system where students from all walks of life would come together to learn, debate, discover, and create common ground. Kamenetz describes public schools as a “place where Americans can give up ignorance in exchange for freedom.” That exchange is now in jeopardy. So far, 19 states have passed divisive concept legislation that prohibit or limit how teachers can explore issues of race and sex in the public-school classroom. Hundreds of additional bills that PEN America, a community of writing professionals dedicated to supporting free expression all over the world, describes as educational gag orders, have been proposed in localities across the United States.
The gag orders have been drafted in response to a recent spotlight on Critical Race Theory (CRT), a 40-year-old academic concept which posits that racism is a systemic problem embedded into the core of American social life, government, and economy and not merely a problem of individual prejudice and bias. Parents who assert their rights to monitor and approve reading lists and discussion topics cite the origins of CRT as built upon Marxist precepts and principles. They argue CRT’s central tenet that racism, and by extension sexism, is structurally embedded in all aspects of American life…Read More
Lynn Greenky is Associate Teaching Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies. She teaches a beloved undergraduate course about the First Amendment and is the author of the book When Freedom Speaks. You can follow her on Instagram @lynngreenky.