CRT In The Trenches
Hold my Drink Podcast Blog, Episode 46
As part of our culture wars, we have hijacked language, twisting terms to fit our own objectives and agendas. No matter what “side” you are on, like me, you’ve probably been complicit in such activities. Not necessarily malicious, although sometimes so, but at least complicit, often unconsciously.
Take Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example. A theory that has trickled out of academia into our everyday lexicon. While we have many erudite intellectuals debating the meaning and application of CRT, all worthy discussions, CRT in practice is having a real impact on the lives of our children.
While teachers may not be pedantic in parsing the theory itself in their kindergarten classrooms, the theory has morphed into a practical application of racial essentialism and segregation. Across the nation you hear stories of children separated out of classrooms into racially homogenous spaces. There are many other stories of children forced to identify as an oppressor or oppressed based on immutable characteristics.
The intellectual exercise of debating whether the theoretical underpinnings of CRT are really applied in the K-12 classroom have no tangible benefit for the parents and students who are undergoing mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion exercises that present themselves in ethnic studies classrooms and Social and Emotional Learning pedagogy. Call it CRT. Call it segregation. Call it neo-racism. Call it whatever you will, but for many fighting in the trenches, they simply call it crazy.
The intellectual hubris that has captured the culture wars among elite circles, underlines a class divide. Many of those who are embroiled in real life civil rights and first amendment lawsuits, are lower to middle class parents and teachers who don’t have the luxury to engage in salon discussions on the meaning of CRT, and despite their financial constraints, don’t have the bank accounts that provide alternative educational choices. And so, facing down bankruptcy and financial hardship, they have become the first line of defense in this new civil rights movement.
As Jon reminds us, and his client Gabrielle tells me, the “fancy folk” on podcasts and making the rounds on primetime TV explaining the origins and repercussions of indoctrination are too often several degrees removed from the parents with their homemade signs attending school board meetings. Meetings that they feel compelled to attend after their 3rd grader came home in tears after doing a privilege walk in their social studies class.
Much like the grunts in the trenches who put their lives on the line daily while the generals are cloistered safely in the barracks to discuss strategy, these are the unsung heroes. And don’t get me wrong, we need the generals. We need both top-down and bottom-up action to ensure that our children are taught the importance of critical thinking, civic engagement, and authentic diversity. But without these boots on the ground, the battleground evaporates in the intellectual mist of ego and pretense.
And they march on.
In the Hold my Drink — navigating culture with a chaser of civility, and Counterweight podcast, Episode 46, we speak with the Jon O’Brien, the first civil rights attorney to take on Critical Race Theory in the classroom. He outlines both the logistical and financial challenges of his groundbreaking lawsuit with Gabrielle Clark, as well as his first-hand impressions of those who are now leading the charge. Those who often come from lower to middle class backgrounds who aren’t concerned with the intellectual debate on the evolution of Critical Social Justice pedagogy, but who are instead fighting its impact in the classrooms in real time. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, and a grape Power-Ade, a vodka appletini and a boring ole Pinot Noir.
Hold my Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we explore the truths of a chaotic and beautiful world, together.
Building a Lawsuit from Racist Curriculum Materials, Jon O’Brien
Teachers Unions Go to Court to Deter Critical Race Theory Disclosure, The Heritage Foundation, Sarah Parshall Perry
Jon O'Brien is a trial attorney, former public defender and personal injury lawyer who filed the first CRT lawsuit against racist K-12 curriculum in a public school. He is licensed in NY, and admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.