Ray Carter | November 8, 2021
Oklahoma Department of Education touts CRT
The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website includes or directs teachers to materials that tout themes common to Critical Race Theory (CRT), a Marxist-derived theory that views issues through a lens of racial privilege and often divides groups along racial lines as either privileged or oppressed.
While those materials are not explicitly labeled as CRT, they do contain standard CRT jargon and embrace many CRT concepts.
Among those documents is a letter sent to school leaders by State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister in 2020. In that letter, Hofmeister declared that “racism is so deeply entrenched and pervasive in nearly every corner of society” and that the “need for systemic change has long been at the fore of public school concerns.”
She urged Oklahoma school officials to “challenge our own biases and open ourselves up to an education of our own,” and said the Oklahoma State Department of Education has “worked to unmask and remedy a cultural bias that holds back students and widens opportunity gaps.”
“Racism is so deeply entrenched and pervasive in nearly every corner of society. … The need for systemic change has long been at the fore of public school concerns.” —State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister
On a page providing various “high-quality resources,” the OSDE website also highlights and includes a link to “Talking About Race and Privilege: Lesson Plan for Middle and High School Students” produced by the National Association of School Psychologists. That lesson teaches children to identify and “express examples of privilege in their lives or the world in which they live.”
Among other things, the lesson informs students, “Privilege oppresses certain groups.”
White Privilege, White Supremacy
The lesson plan includes a quote attributed to D.W. Sue, a professor of counseling psychology: “White privilege automatically confers dominance to one group, while subordinating groups of color in a descending relational hierarchy; it owes its existence to White supremacy; it is premised on the mistaken notion of individual meritocracy and deservedness (hard work, family values, and the like) rather than favoritism; it is deeply embedded in the structural, systematic, and cultural workings of U.S. society; and it operates within an invisible veil of unspoken and protected secrecy.”
The lesson plan also states that “although being female or a person of color does not necessarily directly determine an outcome, these characteristics can easily and quickly make these individuals less likely to be hired, recognized, or rewarded in a variety of situations.”
The “Talking about Race” lesson provides examples of the advantages “of being a recipient of White privilege,” including that at school “you and your friends will be taught about the United States’s presence in Europe during World War II to stop the Jewish Holocaust without a discussion of its Japanese internment camps.”
A “suggested answer” provided for one portion of the lesson states, “The U.S. should not be a color blind nation.” Another suggested answer reads, “How can people pick themselves up by their bootstraps if they do not have boots?”
The lesson plan also includes a “privilege aptitude test” where students are asked if a statement applies to them. The test includes statements such as, “As a boy I can play with dolls or as a girl I can play with trucks without anyone questioning my choice.”
During a large group activity, the lesson plan requires students to publicly give their answers to questions such as the following: “What does ‘White privilege’ mean to you? Say the following to the large group: ‘Based on your experiences, finish this statement: Being White lets you ____________.’”
Students Told Discussion ‘Should Stay in the Classroom’
The “Talking about Race” lesson warns teachers that the lesson may cause students to “become overtly emotional, defensive, angry, or even happy,” and advises teachers to employ “Vegas rules: what is discussed during this lesson/class should stay in the classroom.”
The OSDE website also includes a page linking to “counseling equity resources.” Most of those links no longer work, but the Internet Archive site, which catalogues many web pages, shows that one of the pages linked by OSDE previously stated, “School counselors must be prepared to talk to students about race issues and anti-racism.”
Anti-racism refers broadly to the theories of Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist. Kendi has expressly written that “racial discrimination is not inherently racist” and that the “only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”
Students are asked if “as a boy I can play with dolls or as a girl I can play with trucks without anyone questioning my choice.”
Another OSDE web page and document—“How can schools implement systems that foster social and emotional learning for students?”—directs teachers via a link to the “Leading for Equity” report issued in 2017 by the Aspen Institute and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
That 2017 report declares, “Meaningful progress toward equity in education does not necessarily mean equal resources for all.” While the report indicates that greater financial resources may be needed to help children living in poverty than those from stable, higher-income households, the report also makes clear that some decisions should be made based solely on children’s skin color.
“Chiefs should ensure that they do not conflate race with poverty or use poverty as a way to avoid more difficult conversations about race,” the Council of Chief State School Officers report stated, adding that “race still matters.”
The report informs school administrators that their employees “must understand the history of racial discrimination in public education and explore how their unconscious bias may allow these inequities to persist.”
The report also states that any reallocation of financial resources “will likely require trade-offs. For example, funding programs for disadvantaged students may require hiring fewer school officers/security guards, whose benefits are outweighed by a negative influence on school culture and equity, and disproportionate consequences for students of color …”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.