Junk Explained: Why Are Conservatives So Mad About Critical Race Theory In Schools?

No one is suggesting we unpack critical race theory with kindergarteners. 

Pauline Hanson Critical Race Theory

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One Nation’s Pauline Hanson successfully passed a motion yesterday to reject ‘critical race theory’ being taught in the national curriculum. It’s mainly a symbolic gesture, aiming to a provoke what she sees as extreme left-wing political correctness, and create another culture war divide.

Her party is following in the lead of Republicans in the US, who are also fear-mongering media panic to reclaim control of the narrative after Trump’s presidency and the BLM movement last year.

So, what is CRT and how did it weave itself into Australia’s discourse?

What Is Critical Race Theory?

Essentially, critical race theory says that race isn’t natural or biological, but instead socially constructed and reinforced by institutions of power. CRT has been around since 70s and 80s, and is mainly academic — used as a framework in legal studies or social science classes.

Critical race theory states racism wasn’t magically fixed when people of colour were given more rights. For example, when it comes to the Indigenous deaths in custody crisis, CRT would posit that these “deaths are not tragic accidents or aberrations, but an inherent part of how policing and the law works to reinforce racial hierarchies,” Crikey explained.

Why Is CRT Suddenly Blowing Up Everywhere?

While critical race theory is making its way more and more into Australia’s public awareness, it’s been doing the rounds in the States non-stop for nearly a year.

Last September, a young conservative named Chris Rufo went on Fox News and demanded Trump take a stand against the academic framework. Trump took it to heart, calling CRT “brainwash” and igniting pressure on school boards from his party to keep it out of classrooms — a move that Hanson has mimicked across the ocean.

It’s a real ‘won’t somebody please think of the children’ mentality, but once again, CRT is a deep form of intellectual analysis that no one is suggesting we unpack with kindergarteners.

Conservatives are threatened by any challenge to the status quo, so are quick to dismiss CRT as anti-Whiteness propaganda. Media outlets like Sky News and The Australian have chosen to dig their knives into people’s insecurities about their privilege, pinning CRT down to identity politics, in fear that the next generation will engage with Australia’s racial issues with even a crumb of critical thought.

What Went Down In The Upper House This Week?

On Monday, Coalition Senators backed One Nation to push through a ban of CRT being taught in classrooms. It passed 30 votes to 28, and was opposed by Labor and the Greens. Originally, the motion was to ‘ban’ CRT, but it was later amended to ‘reject’ — the latter wording allowing it to get the votes it needed.

“Thanks to One Nation, the Government has been sent a strong message and is now on the record rejecting critical race theory,” Hanson wrote on Facebook. “Now the fight is on to make sure the Government keeps its word and keeps our children’s schools free of this type of divisive. radical left-wing indoctrination.”

Her motion was a response to proposed national curriculum changes in April that amplified Indigenous perspectives of ‘truth telling‘ Australia’s colonial past as an invasion. Some took this to mean that critical race theory had worked its way into the school system, but as The Conversation pointed out, “every time race is mentioned in an educational context, it does not mean CRT is being applied.”

However, despite Hanson’s perceived victory, the Senate can’t do shit all to influence or warp the curriculum, which is overseen by ‘Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’ body, and not even enforced at a federal level.