Critical race theory, equity a ‘distraction’ from real education crisis: Expert

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A focus on teaching critical race theory and equity is a distraction from the poor literacy rate among America’s students, said American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Ian Rowe. 

In 2019, only 35% of fourth graders performed at or above the proficient level on the National Assessment of Education Progress, one point lower than in 2017, but seven points higher than in 1992, the first year the test was administered. 

Among eighth graders, only 34% scored at or above proficient, three points lower than in 2017. Thirty-seven percent of twelfth graders performed at or above proficient. 

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“One of the greatest trends in education that’s very troubling that existed even before the pandemic is a national literacy crisis,” Rowe told Fox News Digital at the Milken Institute 2022 Global Conference. “And yet we have these massive distractions around critical race theory and fights for equity.” 

“Kids of all races in the entire history of the National Assessment for Educational Progress, we’ve never had a situation in which more than 44% of White students are reading at grade level,” he added. “So we need a really focused attention on literacy, literacy, literacy.”

To meet these education challenges, Rowe encouraged parents to get involved in their children’s education, exercise school choice, and engage with the schools in their community. 

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“I think parents have a right to ask their teachers, what’s the curriculum that is being taught in schools? How can parents actually be even more helpful? There’s been some discussion that maybe parents there should be sort of a firewall between schools and parents. I think that’s a wrong assumption,” he said. 

People talk before the start of a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. 

People talk before the start of a rally against “critical race theory” (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. 
(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrat politicians and members of the media have both insinuated parents should not be involved in their children’s education, rather leaving it up to the schools. 

A Washington Post article co-authored by a University of Massachusetts Lowell education professor claimed “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.” 

Washington Post Headline in October, 2021

Washington Post Headline in October, 2021

“Schools face parents who want to ban critical race theory — and don’t get how teaching works,” an opinion column published by NBC News stated. 

In January, the Michigan Democrat Party posted, then deleted, a Facebook post criticizing parents who want to play a role in what public education teaches their children, saying the role of public education is to teach them “what society needs them to know.” 

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After deleting the post, the Michigan Democrat Party issued a statement saying it had “ignored the important role parents play—and should play—in Michigan public schools.” 

In Virginia, 2021 gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” drawing harsh criticism and, in the view of some, costing him the election. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe prepares to speak at an election night party in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe prepares to speak at an election night party in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Rowe disagreed with this sentiment, saying it was a positive thing for parents to be involved, and a better understanding of what is being taught in schools had many parents looking for alternate education options. 

“Once parents have more of a bird’s eye view into what was actually happening in their kid’s education, they started looking for choices,” he said, noting that the number of students being homeschooled or entering Catholic and charter schools has shot up over the last year. 

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Rowe encouraged parents who do not have the option to homeschool their students or send them to a private or charter school should take an especially active role in their kid’s education. 

“If you have no choice at all, then you’ve got to focus on the school that’s in your neighborhood. Get on the school board. Ask your teachers, what is it that you’re teaching?” he said. 

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