Understanding Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
During the past two years superintendents across Connecticut have faced incomparable challenges in skillfully, and at times courageously, leading their districts through a world-wide once-in-a-century pandemic, complicated by an array of strongly felt cultural forces. As a result, in addition to their traditional responsibilities, superintendents have had to contend with the magnitude and complexities inherent in the pandemic, such as parent and community reactions to various mandates, in-school and remote learning, social media, and the diversity of opinions associated with race and equity – including Critical Race Theory (CRT).
There are any number of good reasons to devote time and energy to a discussion of each of the above cited challenges. However, the purpose of this document is to clarify the position of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) relative to CRT, and to offer superintendents ideas and thoughts that they might consider as they lead their districts through the range of issues associated with diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Critical Race Theory
CRT is a concept that originated in the 1970s through legal scholars in graduate schools as a reaction to what they perceived as the lack of racial progress being made in civil rights.
CRT as a term was coined in the late 1980s. There is no one precise or universally agreed upon definition of CRT, and there are differences of opinion in academic circles as to its meaning, relevance, and utility.
Fundamentally, CRT posits that historic patterns of racism, such as slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow, are ingrained in modern institutions such as law and education. As such, CRT views racism as less a form of individual bigotry and more a system-wide problem. It is the racism endemic to institutions or systems, even when led by well-meaning individuals, which perpetuates racial hierarchies and leads to extreme inequities, such as Black students and other students of color having less access to educational opportunities in school districts than White students.
To our knowledge, no public school district in Connecticut uses Critical Race Theory as an academic framework for organizing curriculum or as a method for classroom teaching.
- CRT has become freighted with all sorts of meanings. In order to respond to parent or community concerns, and to avoid the “yes you do-no we don’t paradigm,” it might be best for all to be as specific as possible, and for educators to use concrete language and specific examples when speaking of the taught curriculum, texts, and instructional goals.
- CAPSS supports the view that different school districts and communities have unique needs, resources, and approaches toward moving their districts forward in all areas including diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- District curriculum, activities, and services are grounded in local Boards of Education Policies and Regulations. (When relevant, draw on these policies in responding to questions and concerns.)
- Most, if not all districts, have as part of their vision, mission, or goals the aim of preparing students to learn how to become valued members of a highly connected and diverse global society, such preparation requiring that students consider different perspectives and respect different cultures both locally and globally.
- District curriculums and methodologies are shaped in part by the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Common Core Standards.
- District curriculums, activities, and services are grounded in the Connecticut State Board of Education’s (SBE) Position Statement on Culturally Responsive Education (February 3, 2021). As such, CAPSS members support the Connecticut State Board of Educations’s goal of:
✓ “…promoting comprehensive culturally responsive programs that implement anti-bias and racially conscious education. Such programs must account for students whose identity is not always represented as part of the mainstream curriculum, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender.”
- District work with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion is also guided by the Joint Statement on the Importance of a Culturally Responsive Education (July 14, 2021) endorsed by CAPSS, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), American Federation of Teachers Connecticut (AFTC), and the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), which means, along with the other organizations cited immediately above, CAPSS members are:
✓ “…committed to the Connecticut State Board of Education’s goal of improving the academic lives of Connecticut’s increasingly diverse student body. This includes sustaining equitable and welcoming learning environments in which all students feel valued, respected, and safe to learn and grow.”
- CAPSS continues to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through the CAPSS Blueprint to Transform Connecticut’s Public Schools (January 2021) – specifically Section 10, “Attacking Structural Racism & Discrimination.”
- Culturally responsive teaching is an educational approach which values all students’ cultural backgrounds, connects with students’ daily lives, and builds on their personal assets as a way of promoting student engagement, student achievement, and student voice.
- We teach history so that we can learn from it and do not repeat the tragic mistakes of the past, and we teach history to equip our students with the capacity to continue to create a “more perfect Union.”