Three Pledges to Combat CRT and Action Civics in American Education

Peter Wood

Millions of Americans have begun to rise against Critical Race Theory (CRT) and action civics—CRT, which teaches students to hate America and to discriminate among Americans, and action civics, which teaches students community organizing techniques so they can protest effectively for radical political goals.

The revolt against CRT is red-hot in Loudoun County, Virginia, and in Texas, voters have ousted school boards that smile and nod as administrators impose CRT. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have imposed action civics on Florida’s K-12 schools. Georgia’s and Alabama’s Boards of Education have written to oppose CRT. South Dakota’s Appropriations Committee sent a letter of intent to its education bureaucrats, telling them not to apply for federal grants that would impose CRT. Montana’s attorney general declared CRT presumptively unconstitutional. Indiana’s attorney general informed parents throughout the state of their rights and powers vis-a-vis school boards. Americans do not want their schools to spoon-feed propaganda in service of a tyrannizing elite.

But what precisely can school board members and state representatives do? How can voters tell whom to vote for? It’s one thing for someone to say he’s against CRT and action civics. It’s another to take effective action. That’s not a knock against people’s sincerity. Critical Race Theory and action civics are new problems, and Americans need new solutions to reform our schools. Above all, they need to restore accountability to our schools by reasserting their control over their day-do-day operations. School board members, state representatives, and voters all need to know precisely how to get CRT and action civics out of our schools.

We have tools ready for them. The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance offer three Pledges to the American public—one Pledge for candidates for school boards, one Pledge for candidates for state office, and one Pledge for voters.

Partly these Pledges are a way to inform Americans of the how of getting CRT and action civics out of our schools. Partly they are a way of giving all the Americans who oppose these pernicious ideologies and pedagogies shared concrete goals. Partly they are a tool for Americans to judge how effective their elected representatives have been. We intend these three Pledges together to make effective Americans’ wonderful opposition to CRT and action civics.

The heart of all three Pledges is a simple statement of support for free and fair education, as well as opposition to CRT and action civics. The Pledge for School Board Candidates says that,

I, {NAME}, pledge to the parents and citizens of {NAME} school district in {NAME OF STATE}, to restore freedom, fairness, excellence, and love of America to our district’s public schools, and to remove from them the teaching and practice of Critical Race Theory, action civics, and any other doctrine or pedagogy that aims to foment racial division or replace classroom instruction with political activism.

Americans are fighting for good education, so this Pledge starts with the positive vision of the ideals that ought to govern how our schools teach. But the positive vision has to be accompanied by a firm commitment to get rid of the ideologies and pedagogies that make good teaching impossible. Our Pledge includes an explicit promise to remove CRT and action civics from the schools.

We need a short statement, but that must be just the beginning. We also need a detailed program for action. The two policymakers’ Pledges each include ten separate action items.

The Pledge for School Board Candidates starts with the promise to prohibit Critical Race Theory and action civics—and then provides specifics for how this should be done. Here are three of the action items:

Require Administrative Transparency: The School Board will require school employees to post immediately on a public website all school materials, including standards, curricula, lesson plans, committee remits, and professional development and training material. The School Board will set penalties for school employees who refuse to comply.

Defund Critical Race Theory and Action Civics: The School Board will examine every expenditure, demand a detailed explanation, and defund all policies, materials, and instruction that use Critical Race Theory and action civics.

Carry Out Reform: The School Board will ensure that all school employees comply with these policies by establishing disciplinary sanctions for willful and continued refusal to carry them out, up to and including termination of employment. The School Board will enforce these sanctions.

The Pledge’s ten action items provide a road map for school board members, which will guide them along the long campaign needed to root CRT and action civics out of our schools. School board members will need to determine how to act in their own school districts—but with our Pledge, they won’t fly blind.

The Pledge for State Policymakers goes into more detail than the Pledge for School Board Candidates. The State Policymaker Pledge cites ten model bills drafted by the National Association of Scholars.

Here’s a short description of four of these model laws.

The Partisanship Out of Civics Act forbids schools from using the intellectual components of Critical Race Theory or action civics and gives teachers and students conscience protections against Critical Race Theory and action civics mandates. The Act also prevents state bureaucrats from taking federal money to forward Critical Race Theory and action civics.

The Civics Course Act mandates a year-long high school civics course, including requirements to study the primary documents of the American founding and bans on the intellectual components of Critical Race Theory and action civics.

The Academic Transparency Act requires school employees to post immediately on a public website all school materials, including standards, curricula, lesson plans, committee remits, and professional development and training material.

The Legislative Review Act requires legislative approval for any new state course standard.

All ten together will enact comprehensive reform of K-12 education and protect it from CRT and action civics.

We don’t want the Pledge for these ten model laws to be a straitjacket. After all, some states have already passed some of these laws. In others, it may not be practical politics to pass all ten model laws. Some candidates for state office may in good conscience favor most but not all of our model laws. We therefore wrote some looseness into this Pledge:

As an elected official, I will fulfill my pledge to restore public school education by having the state immediately enact legislation drawn from these 10 model bills and modified to fit the state's existing structure of laws.

Yet this Pledge will still give state policymakers a clear map to a legislative program that will ground into state law the campaign to remove CRT and action civics from our schools.

The Pledge for Voters is short and sweet. The voter pledges to support only candidates for school boards and state office who have taken this pledge. This Pledge matters just as much as the other two. Candidates need to know that there is a voting block that cares deeply about removing CRT and action civics from our schools. When Americans by the thousands sign this Pledge, candidates for office will take notice—and follow up with effective action.

We don’t pretend that these Pledges are the cure-all for the campaign against CRT and action civics. Many good organizations and individuals have good plans—and no plan can tell you everything about an actual political campaign. But these three Pledges provide a detailed, comprehensive road map to evict these pernicious pedagogies from our schools, as no other plan we know of has. We think they will be useful, so we offer them to our fellow Americans.

Schools have been teaching something like CRT for years under one name or another. Now that the public has caught on, its advocates sometimes pretend that they aren’t teaching CRT at all. Their racially divisive practices may be critical, and emphasize race, and have a theoretical background, but they have nothing to do with CRT. They’re just “teaching the facts about America’s history of racism”—as if an American history course teaches the facts when it reduces all of American history to a montage of the Trail of Tears, the Ku Klux Klan, and Manzanar.

These are just word games meant to defy the public’s legitimate demand that their schools not teach their children to hate one another. If it walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

The Pledges we propose will help Americans fight back against the ideologies that promote radical racial division in schools, no matter the name their advocates use. The Pledges will restore a curriculum that includes the tale of Americans’ checkerboard of sin and virtue as part of the more extraordinary story of America’s exceptional devotion to liberty.

The Pledges will restore to our schools the basic lesson of America: our nation has always flourished because free men and women greet one another with a smile.

Peter Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars and author of 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project.

Image: John Silliman, Public Domain

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