Stefanik called out after falsely claiming NY schools are pushing 'radical and racist' CRT agenda on students

Stefanik called out after falsely claiming NY schools are pushing 'radical and racist' CRT agenda on students
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York State, Wikimedia Commons

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has placed a great emphasis on amplifying the right-wing controversy regarding critical race theory (CRT) and it doesn't look like she plans to stop anytime soon.

Although CRT is typically an educational framework designed to raise awareness about the "understanding racism as a systemic problem," Stefanik, according to North Country Public Radio (NCPR), has described the study as "'radical and racist,' and claims New York State is using federal funds to force it on students."

However, the news outlet is pushing back against Stefanik's claim and explaining why it is gravely false. Explaining how Republicans have taken the ideology of CRT and distorted it into a right-wing talking point, NCPR reporter Zach Hirsch wrote:

"Many conservatives argue that talking about race as a systemic problem makes students feel more divided, or makes white kids feel bad about being white. Several states – mostly in the south and midwest – have banned CRT in some form, including Texas, Arizona, and Iowa."

He also explained how Gloria Ladson-Billings, who actually advocated for CRT to be introduced in the education field, attempted to explain some of the misconceptions surrounding it.

However, school districts are now reconsidering how diversity education should be presented. “There is a move in many school districts to start thinking more systematically about how to talk about race and diversity,” said Shana Gadarian, chair of the Syracuse University political science department. She also noted another reason why CRT appears to be problematic.

She added, “And I do think that's uncomfortable for a lot of white parents. And so it gets wrapped up in this critical race theory basket. But it's not that people care, I think, about the theory itself. It's that they are uncomfortable with discussions around race and equity.”

Ladson-Billings also highlighted one aspect of CRT that Stefanik and many other Republicans often leave out. “I don't expect teachers to do anything around critical race theory in grades kindergarten through 12. In fact, I don't actually introduce the notion of critical race theory to undergraduates. They have no use for it. The theory is important at the graduate level,” Ladson-Billings said.

The latest pushback against the false claims about CRT come weeks after Stefanik's New YorkState Education Department (NYSED) oversight letter addressed to Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “Shrouding the racist and divisive ideology of Critical Race Theory with vague and seemingly innocuous terminology does not diminish the harm it poses to students,” Stefanik wrote.

In addition to the critical analysis refuting the false claims about CRT, Stefanik has also been criticized for misconstruing the ideology. “It's about constructing a narrative of fear and a narrative of conflict,” said Alexander Cohen, a Clarkson University political science professor.

She added, “What Representative Stefanik has done – and she is tremendously good at it, and really is a brilliant politician and tactician and strategist, and there's certainly no question about that – is adopt whatever the most salient buzzword is at the time and sort of go full in on it. And that's what she has utilized critical race theory and other ideas to do.”

Shana Gadarian, a Syracuse political science professor, also offered insight into Stefanik's approach.

“And so she's importing them into New York State,” Gadarian said. “This is the reverse of what we would normally see, I think, of most members of Congress who are trying to keep the focus on local issues [...] This is someone who is seeking a national kind of status, trying to then shoehorn those issues into a district where they don't really fit.”

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