The majority of parents do not want schools to endorse Critical Race Theory, but actually to challenge it openly.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being taught increasingly within schools and corporations. There are various definitions of CRT, but it is sometimes referred to as ‘the effects of race on one’s social standing in societies, and the role of racism in creating inequality’.
CRT has been introduced mostly in the United States and primarily Anglo-Saxon nations, where some feel that ‘legacy issues’ have created an imbalance in races; something that needs to be addressed via raising awareness of subconscious bias against ethnic minorities and through positive action, particularly in the areas of employment.
This teaching has been extended to some international schools globally, so within the BVA BDRC annual international school survey in Singapore, we asked parents if they would support the teaching of this theory in their schools.
The question was framed as: 1) the theory being officially endorsed by the school, 2) the theory being debated and challenged openly, and 3) not teaching it at all.
Schools that teach CRT tend to ‘officially endorse the theory’, and even to challenge it is deemed by some to be a sign of racism itself. This argument can be used as a means to impose the teaching of the theory, as promoted by Robin DiAngelo (author of White Fragility).
However, within the BVA BDRC survey, the majority of parents state that they would not want this theory ‘officially endorsed’ by the school, with most opposing the teaching of the theory, or wanting to have it openly debated and challenged.
Those supporting the ‘official endorsement’ of the theory state that their knowledge of the topic, and in some cases how it has affected them personally, should bring the teaching of CRT to the forefront.
But the largest group are those who want CRT to be debated and challenged openly. Their reasons for this fall into two broad arguments:
ANY ‘THEORY’ SHOULD BE CHALLENGED
Unlike, for example, the laws of gravity (that are universal and have remained unchallenged since the mid-17th century), a theory is not a law. Hence it should, by definition, be challenged, and children should see and understand opposing arguments before drawing a conclusion.
TO AVOID THE PUSHING OF AGENDAS:
Those teaching CRT are viewed as having specific agendas they want to push, or as wanting to twist the teaching to promote other so-called ‘woke’ ideological beliefs. One parent commented that CRT should face the same scrutiny as anyone teaching a religious or political belief – it should always be open to challenge.
Parents who outright oppose the teaching of CRT think that the subject matter is too divisive and is counter-productive. It can encourage ‘victim status’ thinking among children, and can generate negative feelings towards different races in an international school environment that is supposed to promote ‘colour-blindness’ rather than ‘colour-obsession’. Imposing such a theory is considered by some to be a form of ‘woke totalitarianism’, whereby any environment that does not allow for democratic debate is a highly toxic one.
Other parents point out that CRT is usually taught in terms of ‘white privilege’, which today does not apply in countries such as China, Korea, or Japan – these nationalities make up much of the international school student body in Singapore.
In China, there is even a new word for wokeness – baizuo – referring specifically to woke white people. It is used partly to laugh at America, but it has also become useful in directing attention on social justice issues away from places like Xinjiang Province onto places like Minnesota.
Some schools could attract like-minded parents by being very active on political and social justice issues – our survey shows that 13% of parents want this in their school. A school could claim to have ‘higher knowledge’ such that it can officially endorse CRT, but from our research we find that such attitudes can fuel quite prolific and visceral negative word of mouth about schools.
This article was first published on Q1 2022 edition of Asia Research Media