With the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Nikole Hannah-Jones's 1619 history Project at all levels of education in the United States, a battle is under way for the hearts and minds of America's children, writes Donald Forbes.

"We will get you through your children" the beat poet Allen Ginsberg warned 1950s America. He echoed Aristotle who saw long before the sociological potential in moulding the unformed mind – "give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man."

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is everywhere in the academy, cultural institutions, the media, corporate America and the Democratic party; in other words, a majority of the bodies that actually steer the country. Teaching it compulsorily to five-year-olds and upwards as some school districts are doing embeds it even more deeply in the body politic and the fight to control the future. Ideological influences have long been at work in the education of teens. Students do not suddenly discover their inner Marxism from which CRT derives or race consciousness when they arrive at college. They arrive with it as a result of what they have been taught at school.

Older teenagers at least have the ability to form their own opinions. Primary school children are utterly unequipped to question or evaluate what is imparted to them. Authority figures teaching a small child she is inherently evil because she is white and must defer to black and brown people all her life is as inhumane as slavery.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times journalist, has been at the centre of the battle since the publication of her 1619 project which identified the arrival of the first slaves, and not the declaration of independence in 1776, as the true founding of America. Professional historians have disputed her claims – including that the US owes all its present wealth to slavery – but it has nonetheless become part of school curricula across the country. Hannah-Jones for her part says her aim is to provoke white guilt in support of reparations.

From an educational point of view, she has just been involved in an interesting controversy. The University of North Carolina offered her a journalism professorship but without the tenure given her white predecessors. Hannah-Jones cried racism. The trustees caved to pressure from her academic supporters and said she could have tenure after all. At which point she said no and agreed to teach journalism at Howard University which is black.

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The problem with Hannah-Jones teaching is that she is not a trained scholar. She is a black activist who already has a crusading perch at the NYT. Why would she take an academic job unless to be part of the education of more woke, would-be journalists to carry her cause into the public domain. The job of the professoriat, whether in primary schools or universities, is not to indoctrinate. The education of the young is not the property of their teachers and their personal beliefs. It is a national resource in which every American has a stake by birthright.

Ultimately, it does not matter to Hannah-Jones whether she teaches at North Carolina or Howard. She will still receive an annual quota of students journalists primed in the aims of CRT and 1619. Not all of them will graduate as loyalists but the Left does not need them all. A life-long cohort of dedicated believers is enough.

Hannah-Jones, of course, is not alone; she is a star of the anti-white movement along with Boston professor Ibrahim Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. The former teaches that anyone who is not anti-racist on CRT's extreme terms is per se racist. The latter wrote a best-seller about white guilt and lectures on the subject to dutiful white audiences around America. They form a high profile front for the lesser known but numerous foot soldiers against white supremacy who teach in schools and universities.

Predictably, the teaching of CRT and 1619 has provoked resistance from parents and legislatures in states controlled by conservatives who are trying to ban compulsory courses on either being taught in primary and high schools. The trap is that in doing so they stand on their own tails by appearing to deny the freedom of speech which the Right claim to defend. Moreover, since they are not present in classrooms, it is impossible to monitor all teachers, most of whom belong to left-controlled unions that are on board with the new religion of equity as opposed to equality.

The answer would be to recognise that CRT is an ideology – which makes some legitimate claims – among others and teach it critically like any other historical subject rather than as a text of received truths to which there are no alternative viewpoints. It will be hard to make this happen.

 

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