A nonprofit membership organization that works with art educators sent an email encouraging teachers to explore arts education through the “lens” of Critical Race Theory.
As part of its broader diversity, equity, and inclusion vision, the National Arts Education Association (NAEA) sent members a link to an article that encouraged them to teach towards racial and social justice. The organization works with thousands of educators that range from pre-K to university level, across 50 states, D.C., most Canadian Provinces, and 25 other foreign countries.
“We suggest considering [Critical Race Theory] as a means to empower marginalized voices within schools and other educational settings, help learners think critically about schools and other institutions that influence and shape their lives, and inspire students to challenge systems of racial and ethnic injustice,” the article reads.
The article further asked art educators how they can “stand in the gap” and make “good trouble” to disrupt the existing power structures.
“As art educators strive to understand [Critical Race Theory] better while acknowledging the culture of power described above, how do we navigate fear, discomfort, and systems of power,” the article reads. “How do we make ‘good trouble’ and ‘stand in the gap,’ instead of occupying the sidelines in art education?
The NAEA provided a positive synopsis on critical race theory, which has become a deeply controversial subject. Especially across public K-12 institutions.
The NAEA email reads:
Critical race theory (CRT), first posited by Black legal scholars, emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a framework for legal analysis based on the presupposition that racism is endemic within societies and institutions. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist, and law school professor, introduced CRT as a verb because the concept is constantly evolving.
CRT provides a theoretical underpinning for exploring systematic racism. The concept calls attention to race as a social construct, and how such constructs impact societal decisions and perspectives.
The NAEA’s Critical Race Theory email is part of its broader diversity agenda, which may include hiring more arts educators based on their race. According to its 2021-2025 Strategic Vision plan, the organization plans to “establish strategies for increasing diverse art educators in the field of visual arts, design, and media arts education across all roles and division to be a more inclusive community.”
The plan also aims to recruit new members based on race. Among the plan’s objectives include, “[to] create an initiative that welcomes diverse art educators into the Association and builds the value proposition for new members within diverse communities.”
The NAEA joins a growing list of education organizations that have openly pushed for educators to teach through a Critical Race Theory lens. The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, pledged to teach Critical Race Theory in all 50 states and across 14,000 school districts. The NEA scrubbed the pledge from its website shortly after.
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