University officials told the Kansas Board of Regents that few courses offer explicit instruction in Critical Race Theory (CRT), but some professors include elements of it in discussions of race and fairness. emails obtained Wednesday by The Star show.
Board of Regents CEO Blake Flanders asked last week that the state’s six public universities – including the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Wichita State University – provide the information in response to a question about Critical Race Theory of Senator Brenda Dietrich, a Republican from Topeka.
Critical Race Theory is a decades-old academic concept that researchers say seeks to provide a lens for examining the impact of race and inequality on criminal justice, law, health care, housing and other essential American institutions.
Dietrch’s question came as Republicans across the country grasped critical race theory as a threat to mainstream understanding of American history. Some educational groups and professors have condemned the request, saying it could hamper academic freedom.
Legislatures across the country have pursued bills to limit the teaching of CRT in public education. While the Kansas legislature has not addressed the issue this year, lawmakers in Missouri have pushed for legislation to ban programs seen by Republicans as CRT. Dietrich said she had no problem with CRT in Kansas schools, but wanted more information to give to voters.
Responses emailed to the Board of Regents show that most schools interpreted the request narrowly. They reported little or no course with descriptions including critical breed theory or gave general answers with little detail.
“I don’t think we have classes specifically on critical race theory,” wrote Charles Taber, Dean and Executive Vice President of Kansas State University.
University of Kansas assistant vice-president for academic affairs Jean Redeker named only one course, Contemporary Japanese Cinema. Redeker pointed out in his response that the course examines how critical race theory influences filmmaking and film criticism as opposed to US-focused theory teaching.
Wichita State University executive vice president and acting provost Shirley Lefever said students can take courses “that introduce them to a myriad of concepts surrounding race and discrimination, including critical theory of race to help them learn more about the world around us ”.
Pittsburg State University has gone further than other schools and provided unattributed quotes from faculty describing how elements of critical race theory are incorporated into teaching.
“We teach diversity issues in all of our classes. It’s infused into the curriculum, ”a response said before listing examples such as the discussion of redlining, discrimination, and medical experiments performed on black Americans.
“I don’t officially teach the concept of critical race theory; However, I am discussing the role played by societal structures, class and race in maintaining the social hierarchy, ”said another response.
Pittsburg, who forwarded the request directly to faculty members, identified 11 courses that included “a critical element of race theory.”
Antonio Byrd, an English professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who focuses on black literature, said it would be difficult to get a full account of where and how the CRT is taught in any college.
“How exactly do you define the teaching of critical race theory?” Byrd said. “Is it an entire class for 16 weeks or is it a unit where a professor, say in sociology, teaches race and racism for three weeks?” “
Byrd said CRT can manifest itself in a number of ways, from full law school courses to less formal instructions and discussions about the impact of race in particular areas.
How well those conversations should permeate the classroom, Byrd said, remains the subject of debate in universities.
“Even in higher education, it can be difficult to start conversations about race and racism,” he said. “There is a bit of disagreement if there is even a recognition that we have to teach racing in different disciplines.”
When the request became public last week, Board of Regents spokesman Matt Keith said the council frequently received requests for information from lawmakers on a wide range of topics.
E-mails show that Flanders on June 1 asked Daniel Archer, vice-president of academic affairs at the Council of Regents, to “probe the provosts” and “ask what offers expose students to this theory”.
When Archer emailed the provosts 30 minutes later, he placed the request in the context of legislative action on critical race theory, noting that several states have passed or introduced bills banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and colleges.
“Although there has been no bill in Kansas on this subject this year, we have received a legislative inquiry into whether this is taught at public universities,” Archer wrote. “Can you tell me if this is taught on your campus?” “
Some faculty advocates say the question was inappropriate.
“We are seeing a widespread movement this year to suppress teaching about oppression and race,” Gwendolyn Bradley, spokesperson for the American Association for University Presidents, said in an email Friday.
Chase Billingham, associate professor of sociology at Wichita State University, posted on Facebook a letter he said he wrote to university administrators. He called the request a “flagrant violation of the fundamental principles of academic freedom”.
In an interview on Wednesday, Billingham said he was pleased with the response from the administrators of the regent institutions.
“Curriculum decisions about what to include in university courses should be made by the faculty members who create and teach those courses and I hope (the university’s responses) will settle the matter. question once and for all, ”Billingham said.
“My main concern would be whether this was a stepping stone to this more aggressive action and I really hope it isn’t.”
This story was originally published June 9, 2021 at 12:32 pm.