Equity & Diversity From Our Research Center

Do Educators Think Critical Race Theory Should Be Taught in Class? We Asked

By Eesha Pendharkar — January 20, 2022 2 min read
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More than 50 percent of educators are against the teaching of “critical race theory” or “the idea that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

That’s according to a new nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey that asked more than 1,200 teachers, and school and district leaders their opinion on the politically controversial teaching of critical race theory.

Critical race theory is an academic framework that explains the systemic nature of racism. It has been widely mischaracterized by conservative politicians as a movement to indoctrinate white students with a liberal agenda, make them hate themselves, each other, and their country.

Educators’ responses varied depending on whether they were given a definition of critical race theory, which has become a catchall phrase for anything having to do with race.

When asked whether they supported just the teaching of this idea—without labeling it critical race theory—47 percent of educators said no. But when asked if the same idea defined as critical race theory should be taught, 52 percent said no.

Around 55 percent said critical race theory should not be taught when not offered any definition.

Fights over critical race theory have descended into school board meetings across the country, with parents demanding that administrators restrict teachers from discussing issues dealing with racism, sexism, and gender identity. Legislators in at least 32 states have proposed anti-CRT legislation that will be considered this year. Anti-CRT legislation has been passed in 14 states.

Educators across the country have said to parents, teacher advocates and reporters that they avoid lessons about race and racism as well as gender and sexual identity because they’re afraid it might cost them their jobs. And in a few cases, it has. Some states, such as New Hampshire, have even spelled out penalties for individual educators if they teach certain lessons on race and racism.

About 31 percent of school and district leaders also said they had received requests to ban books about critical race theory; 22 percent said they had received similar requests to ban books on race and ethnicity in general.

And about 23 percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders said they would not want their districts to include books about critical race theory, according to the survey, completed in December 2021.

About a quarter of educators—about 23 percent—said in an EdWeek survey in May of last year that they do not believe systemic racism exists. Almost a third of survey respondents also said certain conversations on racism and sexism were not appropriate for schools.

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