A majority of American fourth- and eighth-graders can’t read or do math at grade level, according to the Education Department. And that assessment is from 2019, before the learning losses from pandemic school closures.
Whenever someone asks me about critical race theory, that statistic comes to mind. What’s the priority, teaching math and reading, or turning elementary schools into social-justice boot camps?
Given that black and Hispanic students are more likely to be lagging academically, it’s a question that anyone professing to care deeply about social inequality might consider. Learning gaps manifest themselves in all kinds of ways later in life, from unemployment rates and income levels to the likelihood of teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and involvement with the criminal-justice system. Our jails and prisons already have too many woke illiterates.
Wealthier parents will make sure their kids receive a decent education, even if it means using private schools or hiring tutors. But the majority of children are relegated to the traditional public-school system, where progressives now want to prioritize the teaching of critical race theory. In addition to being a horrible idea, the timing couldn’t be worse. As the country rapidly diversifies—for more than a decade, U.S. population growth has been driven primarily by Asians and Hispanics—liberals want to teach children to obsess over racial and ethnic differences. What could go wrong?