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Study: Mainstream Media Coverage Ignored Bedrock Assumptions of Critical Race Theory

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According to a new report from the American Enterprise Institute, coverage of Critical Race Theory (CRT) by seven publications did not discuss its bedrock assumptions, obscuring the debate over whether the ideology is being — and whether it should be — adopted in public school curricula.

Analyzing the treatment of CRT in 91 articles across the seven publications, AEI senior fellow Frederick Hess discovered that much of the commentary did not offer a comprehensive assessment of the intellectual underpinnings of CRT that have drawn the strongest objections from critics.

Among those mostly ignored underpinnings were the rejection of rationality, objectivity, individual merit, and equality. These aspects of CRT represent a departure from classical liberalism and mainstream political thought, but there’s been little mention of these premises in the press, Hess reports.

“An attentive observer could read literally dozens of news stories regarding CRT in major press outlets and the education press and never even encounter the extraordinary claims at the heart of a raging national debate,” Hess concluded.

Only around two percent of the total articles Hess reviewed in the included three education, and four news outlets, mentioned the skepticism of rational thinking, liberalism, universal values, and objective knowledge intrinsic to CRT.

The most controversial elements of CRT that have galvanized parents into opposition nationwide rarely made it to print, per Hess. Practices such as “privilege walks,” and the repudiation of color blindness were also sparsely addressed. Only five out of 91 articles mentioned the use of race-based affinity groups in school districts and other settings. The push for positive discrimination against white individuals to remedy past discrimination against minorities, an idea also advanced by academic Ibram X. Kendi, was referred to in less than a dozen articles.

Many of the outlets also prophesied the dangerous implications of passing legislation, pending in over two dozen states, to restrict the teaching of CRT in the classroom, but did not scrutinize the language of the bills to explain what, precisely, the legislation would do.

A Chalkbeat story, for example, speculated that Tennessee’s version of an anti-CRT bill “may make it even harder to discuss African American history.”

In much of their press coverage, outlets reduced concern over CRT to a desire to prevent students from learning about injustice in American history, such as slavery and state-sanctioned racism. In reality, most criticisms have taken issue with the theory’s philosophical foundations and practical manifestations, rather than the teaching of specific historical events.

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