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OPINION

Victory Over CRT Is Within Grasp. Here’s How Civics Can Prevail.

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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

The Goldwater Institute is a leading free-market public policy research and litigation organization that is dedicated to empowering all Americans to live freer, happier lives. We accomplish real results for liberty by working in state courts, legislatures, and communities nationwide to advance, defend, and strengthen the freedom guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the fifty states. 

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The following column is by Goldwater Director of Education Policy Matt Beienburg. 

Will Critical Race Theory (CRT) conquer America’s constitutional system? Will the gurus of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) drag the United States back into the days of state-sanctioned racial discrimination? Or is a revival of civic education and constitutional principles—and the rejection of race-based radicalism—rising just below the horizon? 

Perhaps no state is poised to predict the nation’s fate better than Arizona, where both the stakes and solutions for this national crisis are quickly coming into focus. 

Indeed, in his new report Educating for Citizenship: Arizona Case Study, the National Association of Scholars’ John D. Sailer paints a bleak picture of the Grand Canyon State’s recent trajectory. In particular, its public universities—intended to provide the capstone of formal education for tens of thousands of Arizona students each year—“are replacing [their] old civic mission” with one “focusing on concepts such as microaggressions and systemic bias, prioritizing narrow identity-group politics.” 

Observing that Northern Arizona University, for instance, “now requires its students to take four courses that explicitly incorporate critical theory,” and that the universities have “responded with evasion and misdirection” to the state Board of Regents’ request that they insert civic education in the schools’ general education requirements, the report finds that rather than equipping students with an understanding and appreciation of American constitutional government, the universities “offer a skewed interpretation of United States history—one designed to emphasize power, privilege, oppression, and intersectionality.”

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In short, Sailer writes, “Arizona’s public universities teach diversity, equity, and inclusion and pretend it is civics.”

But rather than simply surrendering civic literacy, the NAS report offers a number of concrete reforms state lawmakers could consider, including 1) requiring the universities to implement general education requirements focused on American institutions, 2) eliminating social justice and diversity general education requirements, and 3) prohibiting these institutions from requiring job candidates to submit “diversity, equity, and inclusion statements,” which function as “ideological litmus tests” to screen out teachers and staff who fail to demonstrate sufficient enthusiasm for DEI’s ideological underpinnings. 

Fortunately, these policy suggestions reflect more than mere words—they align closely with a wave of new efforts undertaken by lawmakers in the state. Just this month, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2008, which enshrines in the state’s K-12 social studies standards a requirement that Arizona students receive instruction in “political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy that are essential to the founding principles of the United States.” Sponsored by state representative Quang Nguyen--himself a war refugee who fled communist Vietnam—this legislation extends the efforts first pioneered in Florida to ensure that students are able to contrast the horrors of regimes like the Soviet Union with the constitutional liberties of the United States. 

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At the same time, lawmakers in the Arizona state House of Representatives have already passed a measure that—once approved by the Senate—will allow state voters in November to ban the implementation of various aspects of CRT in public institutions. While a number of states have already sought to stop the state-sponsored teaching of specific tenets of CRT, this proposed measure, inspired by the Goldwater Institute’s model policy, would not only provide ironclad protections against CRT’s race-based discrimination in hiring, admissions, promotion, and student discipline, but it would also begin to break the current ideological stranglehold over these institutions. Indeed, HCR 2001 would put into practice the very NAS recommendation of prohibiting public schools from demanding that candidates submit “diversity statements” just to get hired as an educator.

Already, polling has shown that 4 out of 5 Arizona voters support the key provisions of this legislation—just as recent national polling has repeatedly reaffirmed Americans’ opposition to race-based policies in our public educational institutions. 

Too many of our public schools at both the K-12 and postsecondary level now fail to equip their students with civic literacy and appreciation for the constitutional framework of our nation—instead exhausting precious time promoting racial resentment and despair. But thanks to vigilance of those like the NAS and the efforts of state lawmakers in Arizona, we may have not only a warning, but also a way forward as a nation. 

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Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy and Director of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy at the Goldwater Institute. The Goldwater Institute is a leading free-market public policy research and litigation organization that is dedicated to empowering all Americans to live freer, happier lives. We accomplish real results for liberty by working in state courts, legislatures, and communities nationwide to advance, defend, and strengthen the freedom guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the fifty states. 

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