An article in Economist Examines issues surrounding critical race theory (CRT) education in public schools. This is an instructive report, although, I would argue, not properly related to an economic way of looking at the social world. (See “‘Critical Race Theory’ is being weaponized. What’s the fuss about?” July 14, 2022.)
Originally focused on racial inequality, CRT is now often seen as encompassing all “awake” concepts, including gender and “gender.” I’m not sure that the economyIt is only fair to attribute this extension to conservatives, who are fighting against CRT. It must be noted that CRT is an application of a more general and older strand of analysis called “critical theory”, which challenges classical liberal institutions with a Marxist-influenced approach.
The Economist Estimates that some CRTs are part of the curriculum for about a third of American public school students, usually on an optional basis; This is in contrast to one-third of states limited by state law. What passes as CRT is certainly biased against individual liberty, but Economist Claims its threat has been exaggerated by conservatives.
The magazine explains:
The origins of the CRT go back to the 1970s. Legal theory emphasizes the role of “structural” racism (embedded in systems, laws, and policies rather than individual arrangements) in maintaining inequality. …
Progressives expanded the scope of CRT before conservatives. The theory has spilled over into concepts like “critical whiteness studies”: read Robin DeAngelo’s “White Fragility,” and you might think that white people can do little about racism without inadvertently harming non-whites. …
Opponents claim that students are being taught that white children are inherently racist, and that white students should feel resentful of the color of their skin because of the actions of their ancestors. …
Whether designed as a CRT or not, educators are incorporating progressive ideas about race, gender, and more into the classroom.
Like many people, story writers seem stuck in an alternative between, on the one hand, ignoring injustices toward racial or other social groups, and, on the other, emphasizing group-identity and embarrassing or humiliating students. In their “inclusion,” too, they don’t mention the inevitable conflict in public schools between promoting majority opinion and teaching the basic tools that allow every student to begin to understand the world. (Note that we are talking about elementary and middle schools, not universities, as Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder emphasized in the invited opinion.)
For this intellectual, educational and political mess, there exists a simple solution, motivated by an ideological value that is closely related to economics (while recognizing that ideological values must be distinguished from positivist analysis). It would be enough that public schools teach – not in dogmatic or proselytizing ways – a fundamental idea of Western civilization, formulated more clearly, and during the Enlightenment: only the individual counts and they are all equal or should be holders of freedom. Why neither left nor right thinks this principle is sufficient or even simply agreeing with it provides a key to understanding our troubled times.
An implicit meaning is that no one should care whether a student is black or green, whether he is born into a rich or poor family, whether the person (so to speak as the White House) has the ability to procreate, etc. Another implication is that the state should not prohibit or promote CRT or any ideology other than some minimally individualistic ideas suggested above. This seems to be the way economists, with their characteristic respect for the individual and his choices, would naturally think about the problem. Ideas along these lines can be found in James Buchanan’s book Why I am, too, not a conservative. Tyler Cowen wrote a relevant essay The New York Times Several years ago: “A profession with an egalitarian core” (March 16, 2013).