Many American parents may assume that culture-war battles over critical race theory and “wokeness” are fought on legitimate terrain, involving such matters as how high school students can best grapple with our nation’s complex past. Perhaps they think that the suddenly ubiquitous topics of gender identity and preferred pronouns rankle only those parents who are old-fashioned in their thinking. If only. America’s youngest students are being bombarded with classroom activism and indoctrination that is inappropriate not only developmentally but for public school systems in general.
The contemporary obsession with identity has made its way into elementary school policy, curricula, and standards approved by state boards. While we continue to see poor reading and math scores, schools spend money and time confusing and shaming other people’s children. Many educators and elected leaders have good intentions; they believe deeply that they are part of a necessary and long-overdue movement to teach racial literacy, social justice, equity, and antiracism. But as virtuous as these terms may sound on their face, they mean something else in far too many classrooms. American schools are teaching young children race essentialism: reducing them to identity groups, putting them in boxes labeled “oppressor” and “oppressed,” and often inflicting emotional and psychological harm.
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