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What is Critical Race Theory and why is it controversial?

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 3:53 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Critical Race Theory has been a controversial topic at the forefront of school districts and colleges nationwide.

The Georgia Board of Education approved a resolution last week that would ban curriculum about race.

Those against the board’s action say Critical Race Theory is being politicized.

“Currently, we do not have a shared definition of what Critical Race Theory is,” Deep Center Director of Development and Communications, Coco Papy said.

Non-profit organization, Deep Center, is dedicated to empowering Savannah’s young people to thrive as learners, leaders, and agents of change by being curious.

“What we are trying to do is get people to ask questions, right? Even if those questions make us uncomfortable. We have to be asking ourselves because that’s what education is,” Papy said.

Papy says Critical Race Theory is an academic concept around 40 years old. It looks at systems and policies as a way to study inequities and inequalities. It explains how race shaped the founding of our country and the impacts it has on today’s society.

A lesson, Savannah parent Derrek Curry, says is important for children to learn.

“When you look at the lineage of the country, the history of the country, this country was founded on race and not so good race relations. In order to get beyond that, you have to be able to reconcile at some point. The way to reconcile is to teach children what really happened,” Curry said.

On the other side, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp applauded the Board of Education’s recent decision, calling Critical Race Theory a “dangerous anti-American ideology.”

“I feel the way the system works in Georgia, per the Constitution, to have a constitutionally-elected superintendent and a board that governs the superintendent. They should have a public process to deal with Critical Race Theory, and not having our kids being taught that this is a racist state or a racist country because it’s not,” Gov. Kemp said.

Both Curry and Papy say it’s not a concept someone has to agree with, but it gives kids the opportunity to make up their own minds and think for themselves.

“If we are not able to look at the factual nature of how this country was built, we are doing ourselves a disservice,” Papy said.

At least one Georgia Congressman isn’t stopping this conversation at education. Rep. Buddy Carter introduced a bill this week to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the military.

Carter writes in a statement, “the Left’s cancel culture is going after those who speak out against it. I’m introducing this legislation to ensure our military members can focus on their mission, not the agenda of the radical Left.”

Meanwhile, at least one South Carolina educator says this whole conversation is an example of what some teachers hope lawmakers will stop doing.

“I think that this is another illustration of why policymakers need to talk to educators in the classroom before they start legislating on issues of curriculum, on issues that directly impact the classroom,” said Patrick Kelly, a government teacher in Columbia, S.C. “There’s a lot of assumptions about what’s happening and what’s not happening in South Carolina classrooms, and a lot of those are misguided and misinformed because they haven’t talked to the people that are in the classroom doing the work every day.”

Several states, including South Carolina, have pending legislation that could ban critical race theory from public education. State lawmakers have recently filed bills that aim to set rules on what can and can’t be taught about race, gender and history in the Palmetto State.

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