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State superintendent: Critical race theory is ‘manufactured outrage,’ not being taught in Washington

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

As more state legislatures take up measures that ban or limit the teaching of critical race theory and the phrase is becoming more common in mainstream media, it’s fair to ask Washington’s head of public schools what he expects of our state’s learning curriculum.

Chris Reykdal, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, tells KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show that critical race theory is not being taught in K-12 schools in Washington.

Reykdal says Washington state has learning standards and schools teach all history from multiple perspectives in social studies, government, or civics.

“We talk about the Civil Rights Movement, we talk about the causes of the Civil War, we talk about the experiences of Black Americans, of white Americans,” he said. “It’s comprehensive history, but it’s not critical race theory.”

Reykdal says the rhetoric that’s popular to discuss right now is a different CRT that he refers to as contrived radicalized talking points.

“This is manufactured rage for political purposes,” he said. “It’s a catchall now for every sort of angry thing that people want to throw out there, and unfortunately, has nothing to do with our actual learning standard or anything that the Legislature in this state has passed for what we teach.”

Gee wanted to know if critical race theory will eventually be taught in K-12 schools in Washington state anytime soon, because he gets the sense that there is a fear out there that kids will see it in the classroom.

“The key here is breaking down what it is and what it isn’t. When people say this is shaming some students or that it’s revising history or that it’s all the evils that they’re selling to whip up a political base for the ’22 campaign election cycle — that’s not actually what critical race theory is. So no, the answer is unequivocally no, we’re not teaching that in school. But that’s not also what the real critical race theory is.”

Reykdal says that teaching kids that racism or racist policy didn’t all just go away with the end of the Civil War or the 13th Amendment, and that it’s still part of reality today isn’t horrible. That’s just truth.

“Teaching both sides of our history where we’ve made progress in race and where we’re still dragging some of that in our institutions and our laws and our decisions, that’s just good teaching,” he said. “And that’s what we do. That’s not exactly what’s being described by folks who, again, are contriving this for political reasons. It’s a really convenient way to throw everything they’re raging about under a brand because it’s easier to run candidates under that brand.”

He reminded Gee and Ursula that critical race theory has been around for four decades in higher education levels. And asking students to think critically about the world they live in — including privileges, advantages, inequalities, progresses — is just good social studies.

Gee also wanted to know if any teachers in Washington state have been fired or reprimanded for teaching children to hate white people.

“There’s absolutely zero evidence of that,” Reykdal responded. “We have investigative powers in this agency and we undergo investigations all the time for conduct. There’s not one [formal] complaint that’s come here from a school district. If anyone is concerned about what’s happening in a district, there’s a process for them locally and they should follow that.”

He added that if a teacher feels uncomfortable with the curriculum, they have to address it with their principal and the local superintendent first. If it comes to someone feeling like their rights are being violated, OSPI will get involved with a full investigation.

Additionally, Reykdal said that any guardian has the right to ask their local school district for the text books and they can judge for themselves.

“We have hard truths in our history, but we teach the balance from multiple perspectives and that’s what people have to focus on,” he said.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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