More than Men in White Sheets: Prioritizing the Power of Imagination Because Antiracism Demands Equitable, Just Systems

This post follows up my previous post by quoting from the sources cited in the various Bibliographies. They make the aims of Critical Race Theory under its various euphemisms utterly explicit. In fact, the confessions are so graphic that EVERY use of italics in this post is original to the source. Let’s start with Kevin Kumashiro’s Spring 2000 “Toward a Theory of Anti-Oppressive Education” published by the same AERA that elected Bill Ayers to a leadership position. You will see why student-centered learning can be so psychologically dangerous and why a social-emotional learning focus is always integral to the desired new form of consciousness.

Students must always look beyond what is known; they must ask, ‘what is not said?’ and then go to places that have, until now, been foreclosed. Of course, such a process is antithetical to the ways we traditionally think about teaching and learning…Teaching, in other words, like learning, cannot be about repetition and affirmation of either the teacher’s or the student’s knowledge, but must involve uncertainty, difference, and change. I should note here that the goal here is not merely¬†any difference, since not all changes will be helpful. Rather, the goal is a change¬†informed by these theories of anti-oppression, a change that works against oppression.

Got that? Not the old-fashioned transmission of knowledge–lectures and textbook vision–and what is being learned are THEORIES justifying the need for transformation beginning at the level of what the student thinks, feels, and wants. That would be the actual definition of what Excellence means in education as long time readers will recognize. It’s also why the quote at the beginning of the post title came from another cited article we will get to shortly published in May 2005 in Equity & Excellence in Education. Back to Kumashiro:

anti-oppressive education involves crisis…learning things that force one to re-learn or unlearn what one has previously learned cannot always be done rationally…learning about oppression and unlearning one’s worldview can be upsetting and paralyzing to students…by teaching students that the very ways in which we think and do things can be oppressive, teachers should expect their students to get upset. Consequently, educators need to create a space in their curriculum for students to work through crisis…teaching and learning really take place only through entering and working through crisis, since it is this process that moves a student to a different intellectual/emotional/political space. In noting that both teaching and psychoanalysis involve ‘liv[ing] through a crisis,’ [Felman] explains that they both ‘are called upon to be performative, and not just cognitive, insofar as they both strive to produce and to enable, change. Both…are interested not merely in new information, but, primarily, in the capacity of their recipients to transform themselves in function of the newness of the information.

When we erroneously make a discussion of CRT, or new equitable practices for learning in education, about mistaken facts in the 1619 Project or Action Civics as getting academic credit for attending protests, we miss the intentional, psychologically traumatizing, aims of these confessed practices and stated purposes for a new kind of pedagogy. If the cited authors state that “anti-oppressive education also involves self-reflexivity (and the change of the individual)”, we should take them at their word, even if most parents and taxpayers never read the sources I am citing here. If they say they want to alter students at an internalized, psychological level “significantly changing how they see themselves and who they are,” don’t think that disputes over whether CRT is taught in schools are about whether the history of slavery or Jim Crow laws can be discussed in class. That is utter deflection from what is being aimed at in the name of antiracism and anti-oppression.

The change this pedagogy will produce cannot, of course, be known beforehand. Its goal is not, think like this, but think differently (and not different in any way, but different as informed by these theories).

Think about that line and those italics next time you hear the cry of Misinformation to something that is provably true as we have been seeing so much in the coverage of CoVid in the last two years, or when someone argues for, or disputes, that Mass Formation Psychosis can be deliberately arranged by collaboration of educators and the media. It’s how Standards for Teaching and Learning in K-12 all over the globe actually and intentionally work. Its why UNESCO created them and the US helpfully apes them. Informed by these theories is a chilling phrase, especially to an article that concludes with “how we want students and society to change.” Sounds like an essential component of any Great Reset or Building Back Better to me. To fully understand why these shifts are essential, we have another cite as I mentioned above by Sheri Lyn Schmidt called “More Than Men in White Sheets: Seven Concepts Critical to the Teaching of Racism as System Inequality.”

Created as a framework for college students, the concepts guide what teachers are taught and made to believe so that “students move from viewing racism as individual bigotry to recognizing its complex nature as a systemic phenomenon that pervades every aspect of United States society.” Theories, then, that justify the supposed need to transform “our systems of education, justice, business, health care, and government.” Students need to be taught that

Racism is part of a system that is larger than individuals and operates with and without conscious support…To help make the concept [a theory] of institutional racism concrete for students, it is important to use statistics and clear factual examples of the current disparities found in a wide range of institutional settings..,it is very important to concentrate on current examples so that students can see that racism is still very much a part of every aspect of our institutions.

That was my bolding to highlight what is now known as Mass Formation Psychosis if the shared instilled belief is pernicious and Shared Meaning-Making if the beliefs and attitudes support a Collective Understanding on the need to shift to a Just, Inclusive Society. Either way, the technique is intentional, the same, and quite well understood as necessary for the desired internalized change at the level of each ‘citizen’ in a society. Schmidt even has a section on Internalized Racism that states “it is important for our students to understand how racism has become internalized within the human psyche” and refers to the phrase as “this psychologically-based concept” in case anyone still thinks that the CRT dispute is a battlefield of ideas, rather than the intended psychological bullseye it really targets.

Why? From the section on Historical Inequality, we have this explanation that clearly aims at what the Political Theorists call Social Reconstruction:

Understanding history is central to an ability to understand ourselves and the world in which we live. History is a valuable tool that social justice educators can and should use as a foundation upon which to construct the current realities of oppression…History can be studied as a way to understand the current situation of all racial groups…a historical review can help students see that oppressive circumstances can change through the concerted efforts of committed individuals…Centuries of ‘historical forgetting’ have taught them that the United States is a place where anyone who works hard can get ahead. Therefore, it is crucial to share with them a history that makes clear the ways that past events and policies have directly shaped the social reality of today.

If those quotes are not graphic enough, I was following up recently on a webinar for educators tied to the Roadmap for American Democracy civics/history initiative and how it intended to use the topic of Oppression in the classroom. It planned to push a concept called ‘co-processing’ which sounded like a new way of describing shared meaning-making and what theories must now be used to shape each student’s thinking. A little internet sleuthing pulled up a March 2019 OECD paper called “Imagination Unleashed: Democratizing the Knowledge Economy.” Recognizing one of the authors who has a tag here at ISC, Harvard prof Roberto Unger, its education vision fits with the above, but is not sold in terms of antiracism. Nevertheless, its needed Education vision (which used bolding instead of italics for emphasis) states:

We must equip citizens not only to participate in the economy and society but to transform it, through a lifelong education system that promotes cooperation and prioritises the power of the imagination…The knowledge economy, therefore, calls for education, both in youth and throughout life, that develops character, mindset, and non-cognitive as well as cognitive skills…as crucial as these immediate questions are, they also form part of a larger challenge: how to equip every student with the tools they need not only to flourish within their societies as they currently exist but to transform them for the better. Teachers and students must have the political, legal, and financial means to deal experimentally with the central tension in education under democracy: preparing people to flourish within present arrangements and assumptions while equipping them to defy those assumptions and arrangements.

Some of the four basic elements such a vision ‘demands’ of education are that “engagement at depth across disciplines, around themes or projects, counts for more than memorizing facts.” It can be viewed as a ‘dialectical approach to education’ that emphasizes “jumbling up disciplines and methods. It would aim to form a different mindset: one that refuses to treat radical doubt and intellectual experimentation as the prerogatives of genius and turns them instead into a common possession.” The same classroom function of that global vision then gets pitched in the US in another cited CRT paper from March 2005 published in Race Ethnicity and Education by Tara Yosso on “Whose Cultural Has Capital?”. So when your local school board, a legislator, or the media insists that CRT is not “taught in our schools,” be ready to recognize that its advocates write about it as reflecting a focus on ‘experiential knowledge’ and a refusal to make any student a ‘deficit thinker’ because of their lack of factual information.

Yosso stated and anti-racist educators cite her work in their Bibliographies that

I define CRT in education as a theoretical and analytical framework that challenges the ways race and racism impact educational structures, practices, and discourses. CRT is conceived as a social justice project that works toward the liberatory potential of schooling [Imagination Unleashed?]…CRT utilizes transdisciplinary approaches to link theory with practice, scholarship with teaching, and the academy with the community…CRT finds that racism is often well disguised in the rhetoric of shared ‘normative’ values and ‘neutral’ social scientific principles and practices.

So next time anyone is told “CRT isn’t taught to students in our schools”, turn that statement into its actual, openly declared purpose as laid out in this post. Are its tenets and practices USED on students in the classroom, whatever it is called? Is it their thinking and emotions being targeted for transformation? Are we prescribing Theories and Conceptual Understandings that they MUST use in evaluating their lived experiences and current situation? The advocates say quietly in publications not intended for us that all these things are components of CRT, whatever it calls itself and whatever its pitched rationale. If we investigate by function instead of name, we can still recognize what we are dealing with.

And remember that it ALWAYS aims at social, economic, and political change at an institutional level. The individual student and their psyche is merely the conduit for mass, almost invisible, change.