Noxious Marxist theories that have festered in academia for decades finally burst out of ivy-covered walls in 2020, invading all aspects of American life. It wasn’t just the cities succumbing to nightly riots — everything from sporting events, to classrooms, to the workplace was hammered with the message that America was never the land of the free.
Even “Jeopardy” — the beloved television quiz show that ratifies when a meme has become an integral part of American culture — had a question in December on the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which claims that “our founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written.”
For this reason, the two of us have written a report for The Heritage Foundation that explains the theories that are the beating heart of what has transpired this year. They are known variously as critical race theory, or critical legal theory, or simply critical theory, or many other new disciplines with the words “critical” or “studies” attached. In some places, such as California, you now have to take a course on one of these areas to graduate from a state university.
It is this worldview that for years has provided ideologues and activists with the blueprint needed to discredit the pursuit of truth, and redefine justice, and even the language to go with it.
But as we explain in our paper, the perilous events we have just witnessed in the perplexing year of 2020 were… mindset that critical theory has created.
In the report we publish today, “Critical Race Theory, The New Intolerance and Its Grip on America,” the two of us trace the history of the family of critical theories, and then explain the impact it has had on real life.
Critical theory, by far the oldest of these schools, can be traced to the 1937 manifesto of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, colloquially known as the Frankfurt School. The school was Marxist from the start, modeling itself on the Moscow-based Marx-Engels Institute. Critical theory also owed a debt to Friedrich Nietzsche’s relativism.
Critical theory amounted to an unremitting attack on Western institutions and norms, in order to replace them with alternatives. But first the norms needed to be torn down. That’s where critical theory — and as we will see all its offshoots — come in.
One of the first of those spinoffs was critical legal theory, which emerged in the United States in the 1970s. Critical legal theory saw the law as simply the “cultural hegemony” codified in statutes and defended by a jurisprudence that aimed to support the powerful against the claims of the marginalized. The critical legal theory movement wanted to overturn the hierarchical structures of modern society.
From there, it was but a short step to critical race theory, which emerges in the late 1970s and the 1980s. It attempts to do exactly the same, but it approaches everything through the prism of race.
All aspects of American life are seen in terms of racial power dynamics, and because critical race theory scholars have been so persistent, critical race theory is now impacting all aspects of American life. The protests of 2020, the riots, the inclusion of racial dynamics in everything from schools to sports to corporate boards, are all the result of critical race theory.
To wit, in California, after requiring an ethnic studies course for public college students steeped in the ideas of “decolonization,” “group affirmation,” and “intersectionality,” the state board of education for K-12 schools is now developing an ethnic studies curriculum containing similar ideas.
As of August, the proposed material includes an entire section on “intersectionality,” a concept taken straight from critical race theory and calls on individuals to associate themselves with multiple groups according to gender or race, for example, thereby amplifying their claims to victimhood. We cite other examples in Washington state and Ohio, to name just a few, in our new report.
In higher education, the seeds of critical race theory have borne fruit—notice what students say when they shout down speakers or occupy buildings on campuses today. Here again, terms like “decolonization” and “disrupting institutional hierarchies,” transcribed from student comments during riots in Columbia and in open letters from other universities, decry the seemingly oppressive conditions on haute campuses at some of the world’s most expensive colleges are straight from critical race theory ’s lexicon.
Protecting free speech on campus is an important policy issue, but recognizing that critical race theory as a worldview has resulted in student attitudes leading to the censorship of ideas is a problem for everyone because these are future employees in your places of work.
Diversity trainings that criticize capitalism are big business today. The school board in Fairfax County, Virginia, may have called for more taxpayer money to deal with planned-demic-related instructional expenses in April, but they found enough resources in August to pay author and diversity expert Ibram X. Kendi $300 per minute for a video training session for staff, according to local news.
Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Christopher Rufo has documented several such trainings in federal agencies containing statements such as “virtually all white people contribute to racism.”
Examples of critical race theory ’s implementation abound. While no nation, not even America, is perfect, as Abraham Lincoln said in his address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield in 1838, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” We must restore the “temple of liberty… with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason.” Our generation, and every generation must “let the proud fabric of freedom rest” upon the ideas of liberty, “a reverence for the constitution and laws,” and the pursuit of a civil society that offers freedom and opportunity to all Americans…
Critical race theory has nothing to say to uplift us in this manner. …Feeling guilty about everything? Thank critical race theory — True North Reports
Report: 88 percent of universities restrict expression, nearly half restrict online speech — True North Reports
A new national survey of 478 higher education institutions in the U.S. found that 9 in 10 restrict free speech in some capacity on campus but nearly half maintain policies that “impermissibly restrict online speech.”
The study was conducted by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at American colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience.
The report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2021: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, analyzed the written policies related to free speech at 478 top American colleges and universities. It found that 88 percent of those surveyed maintain policies that restrict, or could be interpreted to restrict, expression.
“These policies have real-world consequences,” Laura Beltz, FIRE’s senior program officer for policy reform and author of the report, said in a statement. “Students and professors around the country face punishment for speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment or a school’s free speech promises.”
FIRE notes that restrictive speech policies extend beyond college campus property. With the advent of Zoom and online classes being conducted remotely, expression is being threatened online, FIRE found, in student’s own homes and on their own computers.
In New Jersey, a student at Stockton University faced possible suspension, a fine, and a mandatory “social justice workshop” after using a photo of President Donald Trump as his Zoom background while attending class online. By having a backdrop of the president, the university claimed other students said they felt “offended, disrespected, and taunted.” The student also posted a Patrick Henry political post on Facebook in July, which prompted the university to charge the student with six policy violations, including harassment and “cyberbullying,” before FIRE’s public involvement caused the university to back down.
In June alone, 128 people came to FIRE asking for help when they believed their First Amendment rights were in jeopardy, the organization says.
In Colorado, a University of Colorado-Denver email policy bans students from sending or storing emails with messages that could be “considered offensive.”
The policy directs students not to use email to send any “offensive … or otherwise inappropriate matter.” Listed examples include “offensive comments” about a range of topics, including race, gender, political beliefs, and even terrorism.
“I’m not sure what they’re trying to target by banning offensive comments about terrorism, but in any case, expression doesn’t lose constitutional protection just because it has offended someone,” Beltz argues.
The policy bans “hyperlinks or other references to indecent or patently offensive websites and similar materials,” holding students responsible for including a link or reference in an email that someone finds “indecent.”
“While material that meets the stringent legal standard for obscenity is not constitutionally protected, expression can’t be limited merely because someone has found it indecent,” Beltz adds. “Under CU Denver’s policy, emailing a link to Cardi B’s WAP video or even a photo of Michelangelo’s David would be punishable. This absurd result is impermissible at a public university.”
In New York, at Fordham University, a policy bans the use of any IT resource, including those off campus, “to intimidate, insult, embarrass, or harass others.”
Each of the 478 policies analyzed can be found in FIRE’s Spotlight Database. Schools are ranked according to color, with red indicating that the institution has the most restrictive policies, and green, the least. First Amendment protections analyzed include policies related to protest, online speech, harassment, and civility.
Among them, 21 percent received an overall red light rating for maintaining speech codes that both “clearly and substantially” restrict freedom of speech.
More than half of red light-ranked schools are located in the District of Columbia and seven states: Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Roughly 12 percent of institutions analyzed, a total of 56, received green light ranking for having no policies in place that compromise student expression, according to the database.
Yellow light-ranked institutions represent the majority, 65 percent, which have policies in place that prohibit, or have an impermissible chilling effect on, constitutionally protected speech.Report: 88 percent of universities restrict expression, nearly half restrict online speech — True North Reports