WSJ columnist: Critical race theory is a 'hustle,' produces more 'woke illiterates'


Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley likened critical race theory to a “hustle” in a new opinion piece on Tuesday, arguing it not only sends the wrong message to students, but hampers academic progress at a time when math and reading statistics were already at alarming levels.

Riley cited Education Department data to note that a majority of fourth- and eighth-graders can’t read or do math at grade level, wondering then about the aim of CRT proponents. 

“Whenever someone asks me about critical race theory, that statistic comes to mind,” Riley wrote. “What’s the priority, teaching math and reading, or turning elementary schools into social-justice boot camps?”

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Riley failed to see how CRT, an initiative that focuses on how institutions impact racial minorities, but which critics argue is itself racist, will help improve those scores.

“Given that black and Hispanic students are more likely to be lagging academically, it’s a question that anyone professing to care deeply about social inequality might consider,” he wrote. “Learning gaps manifest themselves in all kinds of ways later in life, from unemployment rates and income levels to the likelihood of teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and involvement with the criminal-justice system. Our jails and prisons already have too many woke illiterates.”

Riley observed that teachers unions who have jumped on the CRT bandwagon have not demonstrated the same passion toward improving math and reading levels.

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School choice advocate Corey A. DeAngelis is also concerned that CRT is taking precious time away from learning the basics, but he argued that the “bigger issue” is that teachers unions have so much say in the debate.

“Allocating more time and effort away from core subjects like math and science could theoretically harm those outcomes,” DeAngelis said. “But the bigger issue is that teachers unions shouldn’t have the power to decide how or what to teach everyone else’s children when they can’t even get the basics right. The latest results from the Nation’s Report Card show that only 22% of 12th-grade students are proficient in science, for example.”

DeAngelis argued that families should be allowed to take their children’s education dollars to education providers “that best align with their values.” In doing so, he said, “schools would have stronger incentives to cater to the needs of families and provide meaningful learning opportunities.”

Riley, like most other CRT critics, shared concerns about the curriculum’s messaging.

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“It’s less a serious academic discipline than a hustle,” Riley writes. “It posits that racial inequality today is the sole fault of whites and the sole responsibility of whites to solve—through racial preferences for blacks. It’s employed by elites primarily for the benefit of elites, though in the name of helping the underprivileged. Ultimately, it’s about blaming your problems on other people—based on their race—which might be the last thing we should be teaching our children.”

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