White fragility. Equitable math. The invisible knapsack. These critical theory terms and practices are now common in North Carolina’s public K-12 schools. And Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson has collected many more examples with his Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students (F.A.C.T.S.) Task Force.
But North Carolina’s public schools didn’t “go woke” spontaneously. Our K-12 schools and classrooms have been slowly transformed by teachers who learned and practiced critical theory in schools of education across the state, including those in the UNC system. The John Locke Foundation’s Terry Stoops documents one example of education schools’ critical pedagogy here. Such ideology is infused throughout education school courses.
In a recent piece for City Journal, Daniel Buck and James Furey summarize the problems with this kind of teaching:
[C]ritical pedagogy…seeks to leverage every math class, English lesson, history unit, elective, and scientific concept as a means to inculcate a political goal: the overthrow of Enlightenment-based, classically liberal principles—including the scientific method, objective reasoning, evidence-based argument, and so on.
It is indoctrination, not education.
And it is especially concentrated in new certificate programs that have begun to pop up across the UNC system. Certificate programs are shorter than degree programs and usually targeted at very specific skills or bodies of knowledge, in this case “social justice education” and critical theory. East Carolina, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, and NC Central all have such programs.
- East Carolina offers a Graduate Certificate in Racial Equity Studies. The program is designed to provide future teachers “the racial literacy needed to analyze racism at the interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels; develop and engage in antiracist methodologies; and become leaders on racial equity in their own schools, worksites, and communities.”
Required courses include: EDUC 6001 — Introduction to Differences in Human Learning in Schools, EDUC 6400 — Critical Race Studies in Education, and EDUC 6500 — Advanced Seminar in Racial Equity in Education. Activism is expected. The capstone course includes “an intensive action project,” which encourages students to use their “growing racial literacy to address a specific policy or practice in your particular school, organization or community setting.”
- UNC Greensboro offers a Post-Masters Certificate in Cultural Foundations and Social Justice Education. According to UNCG’s website, the program’s purpose is to “provide students with a broad understanding of the cultural, social, political and ideological forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, education in the United States.”
Required courses include ELC 705: Foundations of Critical Theory, ELC 708: Educational Sociology: Race, Class, and Gender Power Dynamics, and ELC 709: Introduction to Critical Pedagogy.
- UNC Charlotte has two activist certificate programs in education. Within its School of Professional Studies Distance Education program exists a Graduate Certificate in Antiracism. The Certificate is geared towards educators who are “interested in an advanced degree that provides an understanding of education in urban environments with a focus on race, racism, and anti-racism” preparing them to “become justice-oriented change agents.”
Required courses include ELED 6260: History and Psychology of Racism, ELED 6261: Racial Identity Dev, ELED 6262: Race and Education in Schooling, and ELED 6263: Antiracist Activism in Education.
The second program at Charlotte is also housed within its School of Professional Studies, this time in its Continuing Education Division. The Certificate is in Culturally Sustaining Teaching. The program instructs educators in “culturally relevant” practices. It promises to teach “theory behind cultural relevance” and introduce students to “a variety of more inclusive literature.”
- NC Central’s School of Education offers an Equity Certificate. The program “prepares contemporary school leaders to engage school communities and elevate the achievements of students from diverse cultural contexts and marginalized populations.”
Required courses include EDAM 5137 OLI: Equity and Diversity in Education, EDAM 5353 OLI Culturally Responsive Leadership for Marginalized Communities, EDAM 5244 OLI Leading High-Achieving, Equitable Schools for African American and Latino Students, and EDAM 5216 OLI: Instructional Leadership for Empowering Teachers.
Teachers who leave these programs will come away trained to “end racism by seeing it everywhere” (to quote Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay’s excellent book Cynical Theories.) In reality, they will divide their classrooms, intimidate their students, and destroy educational excellence.
And unlike other degree programs, new certificate programs don’t require approval by the UNC Board of Governors. Certificates and teacher licensing programs are exempt from Board authority or even notification. The only requirement is for the Chancellor to notify the UNC System of the “intent to establish…a certificate or teacher licensure program.”
Without oversight, these programs will continue to indoctrinate North Carolina’s future teachers. The UNC Policy Manual should be changed to provide necessary oversight to certificate programs, especially in teacher education.
Jenna A. Robinson is president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.