Research: Critical Social Theories shape the lives of people under the age of 25
Whenever we publicly speak about the infiltration of the Critical Social Theories into educational arenas, we are frequently met with pushback that we are exaggerating the concern. I disagree. I speak to thousands of people under the age of 25 each year. It is very clear to me that they may not know the academic name for this ideology, but the core tenants of the Critical Social Theories have shaped their classrooms and their relationships.
A recently released study from the Manhattan Institute seems to agree. Data from a random sample study of 1500 Americans aged 18-20 suggests that “Critical Race Theory (CRT) and radical gender ideology, known together as Critical Social Justice (CSJ), are widespread in American schools.” The report finds that out of the surveyed individuals, 93% had heard about or been taught some component of CSJ. Black students were taught Critical Race Theory (CRT) at higher rates than white students, and white students were taught radical gender ideology and higher rates than black students when controlling for variables such as race/ethnicity and zip codes.
The survey also looks into the correlation between students’ parental political affiliation and its impact on students' involvement in CSJ. Further, the report puts forward that the rate of homeschooled students and students who attend religious schools are exposed to CSJ at the same levels as students in public and non-religious schools.
The report concludes with the affirmation that instruction of CSJ in schools has a significant impact on a young person’s views on race and gender, stating those who had been taught CSJ in school were more likely to endorse them and that those taught CRT had a higher likelihood of seeing whites, overall, as racist or as participating in race-based systems that produced inequalities for minorities.
This research seems to support the claims made by critical race theorists and self-avowed Marxists (alluded to on pg. 225), Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, in their 2010 interview in the University of Alabama Law Journal, where they state:
Seeing critical race theory take off in education has been a source of great satisfaction for the two of us. Critical race theory is in some ways livelier in education right now than it is in law, where it is a mature movement that has settled down by comparison. (pg. 226)
CRT and CSJ stem from Marxist ideology. Thus, it is important to remember the goal of Marxism is the emancipation of a suffering class through revolution against capitalism. The suffering class may not be aware of their suffering but must be brought to understand their unjust position. In addition, injustice is only alleviated when the injustice of every suffering group is dismantled. The suffering being referred to is not merely individual, but the systemic suffering of groups. These collective groups form the new proletariat oppressed by and at war with capitalistic structures and the dominant ideology of the ruling class.
In the opening sentence of The Communist Manifesto, Marx puts it this way:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In “Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” (1844), Marx writes in regard to German emancipation:
So where is the real possibility of German emancipation? We answer: in the formation of a class with radical chains, a class in civil society that is not a class of civil society, of a social group that is the dissolution of all social groups, of a sphere that has a universal character because of its universal sufferings, and lays claim to no particular right, because it is the object of no particular injustice but of injustice in general. This class can no longer lay claim to a historical status, but only to a human one... It is, finally, a sphere that cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all other spheres of society and thereby emancipating these other spheres themselves.
This sounds a lot like the author, Ibram X. Kendi, in his book, How to Be an Antiracist. He states:
To love capitalism is to love racism. To love racism is to love capitalism. The conjoined twins are two sides of the same destructive body. . . . Capitalism is essentially racist; racism is essentially capitalist. They were birthed together from the same unnatural causes, and they shall one day die together from unnatural causes. Or racial capitalism will live into another epoch of theft and rapacious inequality, especially if activists naively fight the conjoined twins independently, as if they are not the same. (p. 163)
To be antiracist is to reject not only the hierarchy of races but of race-genders. To be feminist is to reject not only the hierarchy of genders but of race-genders. To truly be antiracist is to be feminist. To truly be feminist is to be antiracist. To be antiracist (and feminist) is to level the different race-genders, is to root the inequities between the equal race-genders in the policies of gender racism. (p. 189)
While it is true that most high school students are not reading academic critical theorists, many are being taught the tenets of CSJ through praxis. We have (almost daily) conversations with educators, corporate professionals, parents, and students who have participated in mandated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) trainings, and been raised by Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) standards. The impact of the Critical Social Theories is reshaping society, including children who attend Christian schools and colleges.
What Do We Do?
It’s important to consider the impact this ideology is having on young people. What are the implications when a young black child is taught that they are perpetual victims of racial discrimination at the hands of all white people and white systems? And what are the implications on white students when told that gender is fluid, and diverse, and women can be men and vice versa? This is why we must protect our children!
The first step in protecting children is to understand what is coming against them. Every pastor, Christian school administrator, public school teacher, and ministry leader needs to be somewhat conversant in the first source material on CRT and CSJ. A good place to start is Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s book, Critical Race Theory, An Introduction or Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education by Robin DiAngelo and Ozlem Sensoy. While I strongly disagree with the views presented in these books, these are the voices that are shaping the public conversation in our schools and workplaces, including many churches and Christian schools.
Next, get into conversations with your children regarding the basic principles of CSJ ideology. While they may not understand the ideology by name, you can still discuss the general concepts embedded within the ideology. Ask if those principles are being practiced in their classrooms or if their friends are influenced by these concepts. Depending on the age of your children, here are some questions to help you navigate conversations with your young person:
What do you think (or know) about Black Lives Matter? Where did you get that idea?
What books are you currently reading in your classes? (Then, go and research those books.)
Has your teacher talked about skin color in your class?
How has your teacher/school talked about sex? What did they say?
Has your school ever asked you to take a survey about whether you feel safe to talk to your parents about sex?
Have your youth leaders talked about racism? What did they say?
How was soccer practice? What did the coach talk about today?
I’ve seen ideas from the Critical Social Theories show up in ballet schools, youth groups, cartoons, feature films, and music orchestras. The ideology does not discriminate in who or where it will extend its influence.
Lastly, fight for our youth. Parents, fight for your children! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and youth leaders, fight for the children in your sphere of influence. What does fighting look like?
Prayer. As Christians, we recognize that our battles are first and foremost spiritual. Pray for young people to have Godly friendships, teachers, leaders, and support. Pray that when your child does encounter CSJ, they would have the discernment and wisdom to know that this is not God’s plan for humanity.
Accountability. Hold the leadership teams that support your children accountable for their ideologies and what they are teaching to your children. Ask teachers/leaders to explain their approaches to difficult topics like race and sex/gender. Ask to see lesson plans. If you are not comfortable with your child(ren) learning certain material, talk to leadership about how your child can opt out of that specific lesson. Hold your school boards and PTA’s accountable. Don’t accept their calls for more meetings, shaming you for not using the “correct process,” and constant delays as acceptable responses. These kinds of stalling tactics do not protect your child.
Involvement. Get to know your children’s friend group. Invite them over. Have conversations with their parents. Begin to understand the worldviews that your children are interacting with when they are with their friends.
Communication. Have the tough conversations with your children. Don’t shy away from asking tough questions or giving tough answers. Create opportunities for your children to engage in real dialog about difficult topics. While agreement may not be there initially, give them time to process. Guide them to God’s Word to consider what is being said. Young people are engaging with tough issues and possibly hearing multiple perspectives on important matters. Make sure that your voice, seasoned with grace and truth are in these conversations as well.
Because “children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord” (Ps. 127:3 CEV), they deserve the adults in the situation to make the extra effort to protect and educate them about the potential long-term impact on their lives.