Critical Race Theory Curriculum Brings Crucial Discussions on Race, Gender and History to Classrooms Across the U.S.

Great Oak High School students hold signs during a protest of the districts ban of critical race theory curriculum at Patricia H. Birdsall Sports Park in Temecula, Calif, on Dec. 16, 2022. (Watchara Phomicinda / The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images)

In December 2021, in response to the increase in legislation and political discussions about banning critical race theory (CRT), African American studies and queer studies, NWSA, Ms. and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice developed and released a CRT series for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and college educators. The goal was to contextualize the perils of teaching CRT within schools and to provide resources and support. At that time, there were only 11 states that had passed legislation; it has since increased to 40 that have either passed legislation or are in discussion about doing so. 

We are at a critical moment, as the battle lines have been drawn. We have witnessed our colleagues at colleges around the country being targeted or threatened. Women’s and gender studies departments have closed. Public libraries have been defunded. Teachers and librarians have been threatened or fired. And conversations about the historical contributions of African Americans, members of the LGBTQIA community and women have been removed from state curricula.

These are perilous times that call upon us to do more.

We decided to re-release this CRT series on the eve of the Freedom to Learn National Day of Action to push back against the legislation because it provides firsthand accounts and informational tools to understand the tenets of CRT and its proper implementation.

Our series topics include the legal and policy initiatives around CRT; the statewide bans in Iowa, Texas, Tennessee, and Utah; school district level restrictions; a government official’s perspective on the statewide ban; mothers’ understanding of how the legislation limits children’s engagement with social justice and the need for children (and adults) to have tools to understand racism, discrimination and other topics that allow for an anti-oppressive education; and more. Additionally, we compiled a CRT annotated bibliography.

Coming to terms with the truths and injustices of yesterday and today is necessary to understand how identities are woven into the fabric of our nation’s story. We look forward to continuing this journey toward justice with you.

The Journey to Justice: A Critical Race Theory Primer—a joint initiative between Ms. magazine, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice—includes articles, essays, lesson plans, an annotated bibliography and a conversation that address teaching critical race theory from kindergarten to college settings.

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Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead, Ph.D., professor of communication and African and African American studies, is a three-time New York Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and the award-winning radio host of Today with Dr. Kaye on WEAA 88.9 FM. Her scholarship examines the ways race, class and gender coalesce in American classrooms, as well as in political and social environments. She also serves as the president of the National Women's Studies Association.