Community elected officials, not partisan politicians, should lead on curriculum.
Is something called “critical race theory” a good thing or a bad thing to include in schools?
The first question, for most people, probably is: What the heck is critical race theory?
Over-simplified, it’s a scholarly approach that suggests racism is baked into U.S. society, education and the legal system.
True? Not for us to say.
It is undeniable, though, that race has been a difficult and often bloody issue across American history. And, as recent attention to the long covered-up Black Wall Street massacre a century ago in Tulsa illustrates, America often has not willingly or effectively confronted ugly historic facts.
But that’s not our topic today. Rather, we think readers should focus on the long-honored principle of local control.
In Wisconsin and several other states, legislatures are taking it upon themselves to attack critical race theory and prohibit schools from including it in classroom discussions. Even a casual observer can discern this as a backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrations that sometimes turned violent and roiled certain U.S. cities.
There’s plenty of room for national discussion about race relations and society, conversations that ought to happen at the highest levels. We encourage direct and calm dialogue.
But we do not support legislators stepping in to bigfoot local approaches either by mandating or prohibiting certain topics in classrooms. Residents and their local elected leaders are quite capable of deciding what’s best for their own school buildings. Yes, it’s true this newspaper often has been critical of decisions made by local governing boards. Even so, without hesitation, we much prefer policies debated and decided locally over those imposed by distant politicians with their own partisan agendas.
Mind you, that’s not an endorsement of critical race theory or a call for any particular approach in Beloit area classrooms. It is to say, especially in diverse communities like Beloit, decisions are better reserved for the people here who were chosen by local voters. Politicians should respect local authority.