A Virginia candidate for governor made false claims about critical race theory and its role in the Virginia schools. As a Manhattan Institute researcher notes, "Terry McAuliffe claims that critical race theory has 'never been taught in Virginia [schools].' But in 2015, when he was last governor, his Department of Education instructed public schools to 'embrace critical race theory' in order to 're-engineer attitudes and belief systems.'" Critical race theory is playing a growing role in school systems in northern Virginia, such as in Fairfax, Arlington, and Loudoun Counties.
Critical race theory is controversial because some parents view it as racist. Critical race theory books advocate discrimination against whites. For example, the “key concept” in Ibram Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist is that discrimination against whites is the only way to achieve equality: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination,” writes Kendi in that book, which is a “comprehensive introduction to critical race theory,” according to the leading progressive media organ Slate. Kendi is a leading “critical race theorist.”
Virginia's largest school system, the Fairfax County Public Schools, now incorporates critical race theory principles. The Washington Times reports that a "slide presentation this summer instructed social studies teachers in Fairfax County Public Schools that 'critical race theory is a frame' for their work." That slide presentation, titled “Renew, Reflect, Re-imagine: Enacting a Critical Lens for Student Empowerment,” was presented in August during an in-service day for K-12 social studies teachers in Fairfax County. The presentation is available on YouTube. It also describes critical race theory as a tool of “community engagement and communications.” Alicia Hunter, the K-12 social studies coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools, led the discussion.
The Arlington County schools have students read books by critical race theorists such as Ibram Kendi. Arlington distributed hundreds of copies of Ibram Kendi's book "Stamped" to students at Wakefield High School. The book contains many errors and celebrates a Marxist anti-Semite. It also peddles conspiracy theories and is dismissive about Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass.
Virginia's official "Roadmap to Equity" published by its Department of Education thanks critical race theorist "Dr. Ibram X. Kendi" in its acknowledgments section, saying, "we would like to acknowledge the following organizations and thought leaders for their research and scholarship contributions that have informed the development of the EdEquityVA Framework:.... Dr. Ibram X. Kendi." Kendi says he was “inspired by critical race theory,” and that he cannot “imagine a pathway to” his teachings “that does not engage CRT.”
That official Virginia state "roadmap" applies the principles of critical race theory, rejecting equal opportunity in favor of equal outcomes. It promotes “equity” rather than equality. "Equity" is about racial “outcomes,” not equal “opportunities” or achievement based on “ability.” It advocates “eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on … ability [or] socioeconomic status.” But it is entirely predictable that a student with more “ability” will perform better than a student with less “ability.” Moreover, if poor students from broken homes “predictably” do worse because they are less prepared for school or have lower IQs, this is not the teacher’s fault.
Other Northern Virginia school systems are also instilling critical race theory. The Loudoun County, VA public schools paid a contractor to train their staff in critical race theory, giving it $3,125 to conduct “Critical Race Theory Development.”
Critical race theory is a growing presence in urban school systems and progressive areas. Twenty percent of urban school teachers have discussed or taught critical race theory with K-12 students, as have 8 percent of teachers nationally, according to an Education Week survey reported by Minding the Campus. These percentages are higher still in high schools, where CRT authors' books are far more often assigned to students than they are in elementary schools.
Teachers are now pressured to promote notions of "equity" that are rooted in critical race theory. In Virginia, teachers are now assessed based on eight factors, including whether they demonstrate a "commitment to equity." In March 2021, the Virginia Board of Education adopted a new “performance standard” for teacher evaluations that asks whether a “teacher demonstrates a commitment to equity." So that vague, politically-contentious concept is now a factor in teaching evaluations. That could alarm some teachers and parents, because, as noted above, Virginia's Department of Education defines equity in terms of racial and other “outcomes,” not equal “opportunities” for students.
Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department.